Thursday, December 15, 2011

Figure in a room with props

The set up for this figure was a in a room with a lot of cushions, the model reclined on a hard wooden drawing bench – surrounded by assorted vases, some drapery….after it dried,  I stacked this painting against the wall of an upstairs bed room and now after three years have gone by, have retrieved it, dusted it off and photographed it.

oil on masonite 24"x32"

Friday, December 9, 2011

New at it second session

Two  pieces from the second week with the previous model. I think perhaps in spite of or because of  his ‘newness’ -  he was excellent as a model!

pastel on toned watercolor paper

pastel on toned watercolor paper

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New at it

This is a model who I drew sometime ago. He was inexperienced as a model and felt awkward and uncomfortable while posing. He was even in some pain because he worked out at a gym and had hurt himself. He came at most for two sessions but not  for the third booking. 
I realize of course that I enjoyed drawing him,  much more than he enjoyed sitting.

manilla 18"x24" charcoal

Saturday, November 26, 2011


I didn't join the plein air group last Tuesday – cold and powerful winds – upwards of  50 km or more, threat of heavy rain,  (it didn’t actually pour until evening) convinced me to stay home. An exhausting decision. I spent the better part of the day  questioning the sky which seemed a wash of unremitting  gray.

This sketch is from last April. Although it too, was a rainy day,  we were able to luxuriate from within  the shelter of an old  sheep barn. 

oil on panel 9"x12"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beverly Swamp

Last week I was the last person  to pack up and leave at Paddy Green’s Road that runs between Jerseyville Rd. and Slote Rd. That’s ok – I came late. 
A truck from the conservation authority pulled up just as I was getting into my car (very foggy by this time) and the driver rolled down his window and spoke to me asking if I was planning to return next week. Actually ‘yes’ I replied – one more time next Tuesday. 
Then he explained that starting next Monday Native people had a license to hunt deer in this area for the next four weeks. We talked about that. They’d be using bows and arrows and shotguns - their target was to kill about eighty deer. They were from Six Nations and would be hunting Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays right through to December 21st.  I thanked him for telling me.  That left Thursday through Sunday open.  Nevertheless today we met at Beverly swamp on Middleton Rd between 5th and 6th concession – a significant distance from Paddy Green’s. 

oil on canvas 14"x11"

2nd sketch 9x11 night photo with intention of reshooting

above rendered as black and white

Thursday, November 10, 2011

More from the previous...

It will be sad to see this model leave, particularly since I can never do him justice. After all a five finger exercise is mostly just that, a five finger exercise which of course is what it’s meant to be.
click to enlarge

compressed charcoal on bond 18"x24"

pastel and compressed charcoal on bond 18"x24"

chalk strathmore 18"x24"

chalk strathmore

charcoal manilla 18"x24"

Monday, November 7, 2011

From previous, previous week

An appearance or I should say reappearance two weeks ago from a favorite model who will be with us for a total of three Sundays. He spends three months most summers cycling in South America with his girlfriend – the two of them cycle with only what they can carry in panniers from Colombia to Ecuador where he visits a friend. His tires stand up to back roads and most terrain but of course he carries tools.

chalk on manilla 18"x24"

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Old technology - 5772

The tools I use go back centuries in time  –  plaster,  chalk, clay, wax, sand, cement, Italian rasps, serrated wire,  hardwood  clay modeling tools, a wooden mallet, chisels, occasionally a brush , bits of pigment, different binders
I have an old emac that goes back 10 years which I’ve since replaced.
Recently we celebrated the  Jewish new year in Montreal, David’s home town which is ingrained in his dreams. Jenny served as the cantor at a reform synagogue on Sherbrooke West where she sang the high holidays -  also known as  ‘days of awe’ Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Jenny sat for this portrait when she was six or seven –  and of course like most children, very restless.

Jenny life size - ciment fondu

Friday, September 23, 2011

Reversing irreversibles...

Last Sunday was such a beautiful day, I had the supreme longing to go for a bicycle ride but my husband said, “you better go draw, anyway I have work to do.”
To make matters slightly more banal I had a stiff neck, however I went to draw with a stiff neck. During  pose breaks I marvelled with awe and envy while the model stretched her spine, neck and limbs catlike  in a yoga-like workout.
Then I solicited commiseration from fellow drawers and we discussed diagnoses and cause and strategies for cure and prevention – heat, ibuprofen, tai chi, Pilates, massage, yoga, Alexander technique, and the miraculous reversible irreversibles of aging which is to go for a bicycle ride, or swim or walk and to strictly limit one’s sedentary activity at  a computer just as I am doing right now - this very minute.
Then it was time for the model to resume her pose. 

18"x24" soft pastel on Strathmore

18"x24" charcoal on Manilla

18"x24" compressed charcoal Manilla

18"x24" vine charcoal on Manilla

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tub and post

These two small pieces (oil) are extracted from the time I spent on the second floor of the old post office in Dundas.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Building up

Labour Day – passes in a quiet, unassuming , effortless way. Countless  trips between kitchen and studio, noticing a few, brandy wine,   tomatoes on the vine – not quite ready to eat (understatement) aggressively green for this time of year – well there’s  time.

With my camera I take a few compulsive shots of  a head I’m working on – 'note taking'  I say to myself – before making changes. In the past I never could have done this - perhaps it was a blessing – now it’s become almost a habit. I wonder if this extra step has made me too self conscious. I suspect it has.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A quiet assembly

"Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party" and this sort of five finger exercise could  just as easily apply to  still life’s that lean against anonymous walls when they could just as easily make a brief appearance on one’s blog. I did this still life almost two  years ago – the set up was against a wall in my bedroom which I left to its own devices for several weeks after I stopped painting it. It is therefore  neither finished nor unfinished. 
A friend brought the bowl from Italy, the pitcher is an historical replication of a certain kind of pottery from the Knox Allbright  in Buffalo (vague),  the vase once held beautiful plum tree blossoms, the blue bottle once contained oil, the grater once grated lemon zest and the barely decipherable object in front of the grater was a drain stopper for a bathroom sink. 

14"x11" oil on illustration board

Friday, August 26, 2011

Man with pole

This drawing dates back to fall last year when we were privileged on a rare occasion to draw from a wonderful male model.  The second drawing is of a kneeling woman – a short pose and quasi anatomical to help me understand the pose better.

click to enlarge

compressed charcoal and conté on colonial text 
20"x26" approx

conté and compressed charcoal on cartridge 18x24"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Slight variation

Our last night  at our cottage was cold and our pajamas felt damp from all the rain. I tried to record the thunder storm but missed the loudest clap which seemed alarmingly close to us. We kept congratulating ourselves for staying an extra day and not venturing home in the downpour. I told the owner I wanted to come back but that he’d have to show us how to light the wood burning stove.  And he said it would give him pleasure to do that. 

Three separate drawings but pretty much from the same point of view, with just slight variation.

chalk on manilla 18"x24"

chalk on manilla 18"x24"

chalk on grumbacher charcoal paper 12"x18"

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A woman on a cushion

I have a vague recollection of the model talking about a minor personality clash she was having with her pregnant cat or dog – or was it her daughter or was she complaining about her husband – whatever it was, she told it well – I do remember her commenting on her pose that it was very difficult to hold because her feet had a tendency to slide forward – yet she didn’t betray the slightest discomfort in her expression. 
Two oil sketches, unfinished on gessoed mdv from 2009

Monday, August 8, 2011

Front to back

The studio where we draw above the Portuguese pool hall is pleasantly air-conditioned. Alan gave me a brand new eraser because I'd forgotten mine - Maureen gave me a lovely soft carbon pencil to try and during the break, Markus passed around strawberry, yogurt candies. They are an accomplished, dedicated group of drawers - there is atmosphere.
When I left to go to my car the, the intersection at James and Mulberry was blocked by an old world Portuguese religious procession, with a fantastic brass band and individuals carrying banners and incense shakers. It only lasted fifteen or twenty minutes but I was mesmerized by the music and their faces! 

front view chalk on manila 18"x24"

back view chalk on manila 18"x24"

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A 19th century sampling of weather in July: the stuff of small talk: a hands on thing to do.

Charles Peirce religiously chronicled the weather in Philadelphia for 57 years from January, 1790 to January 1847. This was not the same, great American philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce who also had a keen interest in the weather, but an earlier, modest Peirce who started off as a bookseller and newspaper publisher in Portsmouth NH.
Google has digitalized  his vast ouevre of weather gleanings which was bequeathed to Harvard University shortly after he died - and it's online for all to read.
Below are but a few excerpts to give you a taste, which in our time, with the cloud of global warming hanging over us -  gives his or any work on weather, a special significance.

conté and compressed charcoal gesture  on newsprint 30"x36

July was always an iffy month - but when you look through his records you realize that all the months were potentially iffy and July could really give you a run for your money! 

1838 strikes a chord:
1838 The medium temperature of this month was 81 and it was the warmest month in this vicinity that we have on our record for several years On eighteen days during midday the mercury rose to 90 and above on two of these days it rose to 96 in the shade but being placed for thirty minutes in the full rays of the sun at mid day it rose to 143 A small quantity of rain fell on six days making in all two and a quarter inches but only in one instance was the atmosphere cooled after a thunder shower and in this instance it was cooler only for a few hours There were twenty one fair hot and dry days.

Let's try an earlier account from 1793:
1793 The medium temperature of this month was 81 and there was a great deal of excessively hot and dry weather All the rain that fell was during some violent thunder gusts The mercury was from 90 to 96 in the shade on ten days and from 84 to 89 on fifteen days Vegetation suffered very much for rain There was a great mortality among the flies .

compressed charcoal on kraft paper 30"x36"

Sometimes it rained:
1842 The medium temperature of this month was 74 This was indeed a month of thunder showers and great destruction by lightning and torrents of rain also by wind and hail The month commenced with the mercury at 90 From five to seven o clock PM on the first day there was one of the most awful thunder storms passed over this city and vicinity ever experienced by the present generation The peals of thunder were astounding and the lightning the most terrific ever beheld and the rain poured down in such torrents for two and a half hours that several of the streets in the eastern part of the city were covered to the depth of two feet and many basements and cellars completely filled and a great amount of goods destroyed During this shower nearly six inches of rain fell The lightning struck and consumed several barns in the vicinity of the city and several houses were struck in the city and liberties also several persons were stunned Some rain also fell on twelve other days principally in showers making in all which fell during the month twelve inches which is the greatest quantity in any one month we can find on record.

Let's end on a positive note!:
1817 The medium temperature of this month was 74 The weather during this month was a continuation of the splendid weather of the previous month The farmer rejoiced at having such a pleasant season for gathering in his early harvest which was very abundant Fertilizing showers and warm sunshines caused the earth to bring forth luxuriantly Indeed the earth and the trees were literally loaded with every good thing Thunder showers were very frequent and a healthier season thus far has not been experienced for many years.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


 I was perhaps the most refreshed and reflective person on my  street  as I lay, for the second time mid morning,  immersed  in a  five foot tub filled with cold water that I had drawn earlier  around 2:30 am. I lay there for a good 5 to 10 minutes - without shivering, allowing my mind to drift, feeling tranquil and clever. 
No air conditioners, no palm trees,  but fans, open windows and good cross ventilation in an airy house -  if one can get the air to move. I couldn't persuade my husband to follow my   example - he ran screaming from my suggestion telling me that I was a seal. 

oil on cardboard painted late June on outskirts of Dundas
on a very slippery shellac ground.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Production mode

This morning when I emptied the coffee grounds into the green compost container I was greeted with a frenzy of fruit flies - drosophila melanogaster – they were eager for the coffee grounds or curious at least -  but would have I’m sure, preferred a banana peel – later, I said. I admire their industry but would be happy if it could take place  elsewhere. 
Now since I've returned from my swim, I no longer see them - I accept their disappearance with a sigh of relief.

Study of a standing figure below from a Sunday in June.

oil on canvas board 14"x18"

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer mode

Summer is characterized by long hours of light, the illusion of endless days and the allure of bodies of water in which to bathe – i.e. swim, keep cool. Moreover I have an allegiance to summer because I was born in June – I specifically requested  that birth date even before I knew my parents. 
I abide by simple pleasures and cultivate euphoric states, an inner dreaminess which I work at sustaining well into autumn. 
Heavenly summer – books to read, some of them gothic, Edith Wharton (yikes), a bicycle to ride – obviously one never grows up nor intends to.  If tomorrow for some reason I complain bitterly and you never know, I might – it will become apparent I’m not consistent.

The painting below was done early evening a few weeks ago on the outskirts of Dundas.

oil on gessoed panel 12"x16"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Creek in June early evening

A return visit to the creek lathered with enough spray to repel all the ravenous mosquitos  this side of the equator from a slightly different vantage point.  One sniff of me and they either fainted or fled, I was happily abandoned. A veritable calm prevailed, I could hear the frogs and myself sigh in something approaching tranquillity.

oil on canvas panel 12" by 12"

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday life

These weekly life sessions help keep me copacetic. I've missed a few and won't alas get back to it till July. I'll have to improvise in the meantime - may try to take in Caravaggio and his followers in Ottawa on our way to Montreal and then will make time for the museum in Boston when we're down that way.

Below - three forty minute poses.

40 minutes 18 in by 24 in on Strathmore -
prior to tweaking when I returned home
- six of one half a dozen of another this
tweaking exercise

Strathmore as above

manilla 18 in by 24 in 40 min

Friday, June 10, 2011

Moving myself around

Not bothering about color harmony ( although if I do look worried I ‘ve had plenty of experience doing  that – ha ha) - as much as experimenting with mixing colors from landscape palettes to see what tones of this and that I can obtain – painting over a previous study – half looking half guessing being quite compatible with mud as that is something I have in abundance in my studio.
click on image to enlarge

oil on canvas 10" by 12"


I salvage some paint from a left over  palette to rework  a head study - alizaron crimson on forhead. – A notice from revenue Canada informs me that they don’t owe me a refund I owe them -  I force a smile which is not to say that it is a forceful or even necessarily a convincing smile but in this heat subtle distinctions are nothing to sweat about. I figure if I can be supportive to mosquitos I can hardly refuse to pay my taxes – meant as a joke of course.

oil 6" by 8" pre gessoed board

Head sketches from a few years ago - something like that.