Saturday, May 9, 2020

Making time for art - in the land that time forgot

For most of us there is very little that is "normal" about our day to day life this spring, With that in mind, and with Mother's Day coming, I want to shout out to all the Moms and Mom-assistants who are finding creative ways to entertain, inspire and teach their kids. Those who are able to meet daily challenges, spark inquisitiveness... and still manage to maintain sanity. I hope you all enjoy a little rest and a good bit of adulation this Mother's Day. You deserve it!

As an artist, this stay-at-home isolation is kind of normal: time at home = studio time. And while I wouldn't wish the reason for quarantining on anyone, I'm making the most of it. After last year's lengthy distraction of preparing to move, I was ready to be more productive.

Here are some of the pieces I have been working on since February. This is Sweeney Todd's Curtain Call. It's part of a series of vintage barbering tools that I'm enjoying painting. Vintage implements like these, with their delicate craftsmanship, just fascinate me and I was lucky enough to borrow some antique razors and shaving brushes from a friend's extensive collection.

It was difficult to create a composition that highlighted the razors but eventually I hung them inside a wine box and played with the light to capture the character of their handles and the shine of the blades. And since it looked like footlights on a stage, the title seemed obvious. If you are interested in this painting, please take a look on my website for more details.

Vintage straight razors, shaving razor
©2020 Dorothy Lorenze, Sweeney Todd's Curtain Call

Another in this series is The Regiment. An assemblage of shaving brushes standing at attention with touches of regimental red and blue just struck me as having an esprit de corps. This painting is 10 x 10" and is also available on my website.

still life, vintage barber brushes, shaving brushes
©2020 Dorothy Lorenze, The Regiment

Next came a composition where one of the group had something of a downfall. Maybe the red background suggests a conflict? This little painting is called Man Down (obviously). It's 6 x 9". All these paintings are done on panels and all are sold framed in classic plein air frames.

still life, vintage barber brushes, shaving brushes
©2020 Dorothy Lorenze, Man Down

The barber tool paintings became a series because, although I was prepared to return them to New York in February... suddenly no one was going anywhere. I've been making good use of my extended time with these beautiful tools of the trade. The paintings below have already found new homes. Left to right they are: Family Resemblance, Blood Money and Vintage Barber Brushes.

©2020 Dorothy Lorenze
For a change of pace, and maybe more timely in subject, this painting is a composite of photos taken in Aix en Provence a few years ago. The impact of the light on the pillars and a child all alone created  a moving scenario but I hadn't yet been motivated to paint it. The time just seems right for this one and I call it Grace in Isolation. I hope you agree.

interior genre, church interior, light in church, original oil painting
©2020 Dorothy Lorenze, Grace in Isolation

During this difficult time when we are not only trying to stay safe, but, stay cheerful (!) it's been wonderful to see the creative ways folks are supporting one another - at a distance. I guess it says something about us all being in this together. Everyone's life has changed. We've followed rules, made masks, supported health care professionals, donated to communities in greater need and tipped grocery store cashiers. All the while being thankful for the privilege of having a home to shelter in comfortably and the loving support of friends and family. Gratitude and kindness - we need all we can get... and give.

I hope you and your loved ones are well and able to appreciate the goodness around you even on the most challenging days. As always, thank you following along on my art journey and for all the kind words of support on Facebook, Instagram and my blog/newsletter. I'll be back soon with more paintings to share. Hopefully we will see one another out and about very soon.

Take care. Stay safe. Be kind. Be creative!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Painter, teacher, mentor...and author!

I try to be upbeat and art-focused in this newsletter and I hadn't planned to write about the state of emergency and dread that we are experiencing now, but it's impossible to ignore. And that's OK because we need to be both vigilant to protect one another and grateful for the beauty, love and generosity in our world. On the subject of beauty, I think of the beauty of kind, generous acts and, as always, art. 

I have been painting of course, and hope you are also finding something creatively beautiful to enjoy. The art of baking?! A dangerously delicious, creative endeavor. Actually, the art of cooking is especially creative lately: combining staples to limit grocery store visits. (Working from home since my graphic design days, I tended to head out in the afternoon for one red pepper... or a latte, if I'm honest.) Oh, and I made a few masks for protected social distancing.

For a more painterly approach to art appreciation, I am pleased to wholeheartedly recommend an utterly enjoyable and enlightening resource: The Art of Still Life, by my friend, teacher, mentor and all around go-to art guru, Todd M. Casey. It's a beautifully written and comprehensive book that will be of equal interest to artists and art lovers.

This book is filled with everything you need to know about creating - or appreciating - still life painting. Concepts of light, color, composition and so much more are explained, described and illustrated with images and charts making it easy to understand. Here, the drama of color falling into shadow on a form, an important concept, is clearly described. And there are so many others.

©2020 The Art of Still Life, Todd M. Casey 

But there is nothing dry about it. As Todd explains, "This book expresses both the scientific and expressive aspects of still life painting [and]... encourages you to heighten your senses and to use that heightened awareness when painting." It's inspirational as well as instructional.

In fact it was Todd's painting Bottles with a Book and Letters below that initially inspired me to reach out to him for instruction. The concepts in his book are those typically taught in a classical atelier - from color and value studies to cast drawing and rendering three dimensional volume in a two dimensional painting. Whether you have studied in an atelier program or not, this book is invaluable resource.

©2020 The Art of Still Life, Todd M. Casey
For me, the page below is a perfect example of instruction coupled with inspiration. An elegant, rich and subtle painting by Hovsep Pushman (which I had never before seen) illustrates an example of soft chroma along with a chart of oh-so-subtle color shifts flanking a row of neutral values. Just look at all the variations  between neutral and chroma and how effectively Pushman employs his subtle palette!

©2020 The Art of Still Life, Todd M. Casey
High quality images including historic masterworks and brilliant works by contemporary masters of painting are found throughout. My favorite juxtaposition of old and new is a trompe l'oeil by William Hartnet on the left and Tony Curanaj's contemporary version of trompe l'oeil. This historic genre of "fool the eye" paintings was made popular by Dutch painters in the 1600s and still holds appeal.

©2020 The Art of Still Life, Todd M. Casey
Many pertinent subjects are explored in The Art of Still Life including modeling form, perspective, foreshortening, organizing your studio - even understanding information on a paint tube! The chapter "Light, Illumination and Shadow" alone covers -
  • The Science of Light
  • The Terminology of Light and Shadow
  • Surface Reflection and Body Reflection
  • Light on Glass
  • Light on a Translucent Object
  • Light on Hair, Fabric and Wool
  • Lighting Your Studio
  • Thinking of Light Spatially
Don't know what it means to think spatially about light? No problem, it's explained and illustrated:

©2020 The Art of Still Life, Todd M. Casey
And below Todd shows how light is reflected differently on a matte, glossy or mirrored surface. Knowing this information adds to your conceptual knowledge making it easier to see and understand these differences in any composition. 

©2020 The Art of Still Life, Todd M. Casey
Although the book uses the genre of still life to illustrate concepts and methods of painting, all can be applied to any painting and there are examples of interiors (one by John Singer Sargent!) and gorgeous florals as well. Roses on the left is by Abbot Handerson Thayer (late 1800s) and on the right  is Paul Seaton's Old Roses, White Souvenir de la Malmaison and Glamis Castle (2008).

©2020 The Art of Still Life, Todd M. Casey
You don't have to take my word about the value of this book, Eric Rhoads, artist and publisher of Fine Art Connoisseur, agrees. His glowing review says, "It is one of the finest examples of a painting instruction book I've experienced in my collection of over 500 art books."  

In terms of a book review and recommendation, I guess I could have started and ended with that accolade... but you would have missed the pictures. And I would have missed revisiting it all too.

I will close with a personal accomplishment of which I am enormously proud: a few of my paintings are published in this book! Two are of basic sphere exercises that were utterly satisfying to paint. One is an image of my painting of cherry tomatoes with my palette adjacent. It's in the section discussing palettes. And my Dutch Apple Still Life painting is in the "Color Science and Art Chapter." Color me honored.

©2020 The Art of Still Life, Todd M. Casey
And a final personal note to report that our extended family is well and currently healthy. I truly hope this newsletter finds you well and healthy too. We have all been touched by tragedy on some level and are looking forward to a time of more mundane concerns. (Where should we go out to dinner tonight, my dear?) Meanwhile, as we manage emotions in this trying time, please be good to yourself. It's not easy to avoid worrying, so enjoy life's beauty wherever you find it.

Once again, thanks for joining me on my art journey.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

New paintings, new inspirations

My most recent paintings have fallen into two categories: mandarin oranges and vintage barbershop. No connecting thread between subjects other than the creative process and the desire to explore imagery with both. Often while I'm painting I mentally cook up another composition with the same subject, so these have both developed into mini-series.

This painting, Mandarin Rising, was done last year and recently sold at Newburyport Art Association - my first local sale in our new home.

Mandarin orange, clementine, classical still life
Mandarin Rising (sold) ©2019 Dorothy Lorenze

I love painting the color and texture of these little oranges and had a backlog of composition ideas so was happy to see them again at Whole Foods. Here are the two latest, with different Asian elements to compliment their Mandarin-ness.

Clementine, glazed ginger jar, classical still life
Orange Ginger, 6x8" ©2019 Dorothy Lorenze 

Orange Ginger features a classic, green ginger jar with glazed highlights on the low-relief surface that contrast nicely with the flat, raw clay of the cover.

Clementine orange, vintage wooden box, opium cache, still life, original oil painting
Orange and Opium, 6x8" ©2019 Dorothy Lorenze

Orange and Opium requires a bit of explanation. The wooden box serving as a backdrop for the orange was purchased in a flower shop in San Francisco that had a variety of unusual containers and vintage boxes for floral arrangements. I like the deep red paint, scarred with indentations. Almost like someone tapped a hot circular object on it, like... say, an opium pipe?! Quite possibly, since inside the box was a slip of paper describing it as a 1920s opium box. I bought it in spite of its drug history and with fingers crossed that this treasure would not alert drug sniffing dogs at the airport. It's a great little box with a small sliding cover and a lot of character. I've got tons of ideas for compositions with this one. And I'm happy to say there was no drug-related delay at the airport.

The above paintings will soon be available on my website, which I am in the process of updating.

Meanwhile, Noteworthy, a trompe l'oeil "rack" painting, and Dutch Apple Still Life, a classic still life composition, are on view at the Newburyport Art Association. And I'm just tickled to share that Dutch Apple Still Life was awarded Best in Show! It also sold which is pretty exciting too, but what truly moved me was the kind comments by the juror. He described my piece as having "...the attention to detail one would expect from a Northern Renaissance master painting." Wow! He saw a connection to the very work that I admire most. And in fact, the pewter pot was bought in Amsterdam on a quest to bring home a Rembrandt-esque objet d'art for future inspiration.

I am so grateful to Newburyport Art Association and juror Jim Craig of Rockwell Art Association and Museum for this honor.
antique pewter, ripe apple, classical realism
Dutch Apple Still Life ©2019 Dorothy Lorenze
trompe l'oeil, vintage papers, antique desk utensils
Noteworthy ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze
The Newburyport exhibit is full of beautiful work artfully hung by the committee. They have enriched the viewer's experience by grouping sensitive drawings or fresh florals or colorful abstracts. Each a storyboard of complimentary imagery. Well worth a visit before it closes this weekend (February 1st).

In my next newsletter I plan to describe some of my painting process, showing stages of work in progress with the paintings I'm developing now. Stay tuned for more vintage barbershop a la Sweeney Todd, without the murderous bit.

Thanks so much for sticking with me on this art journey.

To the new readers: check out earlier studio news here where you can also search for past subjects. Please leave comments, ask questions and share this newsletter with anyone you think might find it interesting.