Tuesday, December 24, 2013

treasures and keepsakes

The crazy, hectic, frantic part of the holiday is over - let the festive and fantastic part begin! Time to relax, savor the fruits of your labor and enjoy the company of family and friends. And be thankful. Once again, my heartfelt thanks go to all of you who have supported my creative journey with your kind comments. I hope this holiday season brings you more joys than toys and you treasure memories with those whose smiles warmed your heart throughout the year.

Merry Christmas!

This is my first official Christmas painting and the subject is a family keepsake. A holiday painting is something I have always wanted to do, but never got around to. You know how it is at this busy time of year. Adding an oil painting to the seasonal preparations was never quite doable. The answer, this year, was to bake less and paint more! Not a bad trade-off in my book.

Somehow when you put something off and then finally get around to it, there seems to be more pressure to do a good job. (or is that just me?!) Well, it took awhile to come up with a composition, but I'm happy I chose these ornaments. They are real childhood keepsakes - perfect for the sentiment of the season. The red one is actually from my father's Christmas tree when he was a boy! Even though it's a bit tarnished, it's always been my favorite.

Christmas 1945, 8x8" oil on canvas panel © 2013 Dorothy Lorenze

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Painterly Village

Among the shopping-wrapping-gifting-deliveries, frames arrived! So I took a break to dress up these studies in their new finery and set up my painterly version of a gingerbread village.

These are the most recent small poster studies for my paintings. They are meant to be roughly blocked-in color studies that indicate value and color in a poster-like way. Master painters like Ted Seth Jacobs and Tony Ryder (and my painting guru, Todd Casey) use this step in their representational painting as a prep for the real painting. And their work is amazing so you know it's time well spent!

But the studies are supposed to be quick, rough and slightly abstracted. I'm not so good at rough, abstract or quick. Details are so hard to ignore! Maybe it's a carryover from graphic design where every point, pica and pixel makes a difference. (or a painter's version of micro-managing?) Whatever. I tend to get "involved" and end up with mini paintings. Hence this painterly village.

I may try to work looser, but for now it's good to work this way. Time spent on studies is time spent observing and becoming better acquainted with the subject. It helps to discover subtle variations that distinguish an object.

And it's kind of a test. Like speed dating. (Not that I have personal knowledge of such things.) But think of it this way: if it's no fun to spend a relatively short time on a small painting then why paint a large version of the subject? Now that may not be what Ted Seth Jacobs had in mind, but I think it's a good point! So far all my test studies have progressed to larger canvases.

Grey Roseville ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze, 8x16"
While the "grown-up" versions of these paintings are available in galleries (in Guilford, Bedford, Croton Falls) and online, the little ones are hanging out with me in the studio as a reminder of recent compositions that made me smile.

Just like old friends.

The is "Grey Roseville" and the larger 8x16" oil on linen can be purchased from my studio. Please email if you are interested. The little study is not for sale as it has joined the family of my painterly village for the time being.

Note: the small frames are from Custom Frame Solutions, an excellent online source for quality frames at reasonable prices.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

in "other" artistic news -

Painting is sort of on the back burner this week because choral practice is taking precedence. So, if hectic holiday preparations are stressing you out, come enjoy some serene classical music to celebrate the season this weekend.  I promise, you will feel comfort and joy!

Saturday December 7 at 8pm

Valhalla Methodist Church

Sunday December 8 at 4 pm

Trinity Episcopal Church, Ossining

http://taghkanicchorale.org/One of my favorites from this concert was written in 1502. Imagine that! The elegantly simple, chant-like Ave Maria, Gratia Plena by Josquin Deprez, ends with this sweet request of Mary: "memento mei" (remember me). Here's a link to Tallis Scholars singing this beautiful piece. They have 27,000+ views. Maybe Taghkanic Chorale will do as well. Our Music Director Steven Fox manages to get a pretty angelic sound from us mere mortals!

To reserve tickets call 914.737.6707 or email me before Friday and they will be held for payment at the door.

And, just so you know I'm not slacking off in my other fine art arena...
here is a small study of more books which will soon be a larger, more refined 16" x 12"  oil painting. I'm excited about the old peeling spine on the lower books and about adding patterned fabric to this one! Such fun!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thank "bad"ness

A holiday that celebrates thankfulness. It’s kind of an impressive concept:  A day just to focus on things to be thankful for. We thank good-ness all the time, but how about thanking bad-ness, poor execution and failure? Doing work that is almost good enough lets me glimpse the carrot, the reward, to strive for at the end of the day (more likely, the salted, dark chocolate caramel... whatever)

Anyway, at the start of a painting, if you can't see the goals you want to reach and recognize what it takes to get there, it's not likely to happen. It helps to know what's not working, which means engaging in honest, careful self-examination.
This is not easy.

So I'm also thankful for artist friends who will honestly identify areas that need help as well as areas that are just fine! (sign it and frame it already!) We help each other stay on track, which is awesome. Like a workout partner - commitments are made, the practice gets done,  progress ensues! It looks something like this:

It's all about getting down to work.

Robert Genn has all sorts of great advice for painters and he recently quoted the writer Ray Bradbury, "Write a thousand words a day and in three years you'll be a writer." That works for painting too.

c/o Robin Kalinich's More Ink on Facebook
Janet Hulstrand's advice on the practice of writing hit a similar chord (courtesy of Robin Kalinich’s Facebook page "More Ink" a great place for words, wit and wisdom, btw).

This painting/writing relationship is connecting with me lately. Coincidentally I've been painting books. Lots of books. Mostly old books. I love the thought that they have a history of encouraging and enlightening readers.

Meanwhile I spend hours choosing books, finagling perspective and imagining many paintings to come. I just need time... and patience.

Patience! Days of painting that include a healthy dose of patience are the days I'm most thankful for. That's when the best work gets done.
(Eventually. Be patient!)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

"Novel Exploration" 12x16" ©2013 dorothylorenze
"Past Times" 11x14" ©dorothylorenze

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Holiday Show Opening Reception

Dear Friends,

You are cheerfully invited to the Opening Reception of the Holiday Show at Green Art Gallery next weekend.
Saturday, November 16th
3pm to 6pm
Greene Art Gallery
29 Whitfield Street, Guilford CT 06437

Gallery Director, Kathryn Greene, has carefully chosen a selection of unique, fine art for this holiday exhibit, including several of my paintings. So come and shop for your family and friends or shop for yourself! Just come! 

Over the river and through the woods to the quaint Connecticut town of Guilford, join us for a reception ushering in an artistic gift-giving season!

visit my website
 You know what they say...
"Bedeck your walls with art, be jolly. Fa la la la la, la la la la..."
 Or something like that.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Going Greene

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to share with you the news that twelve of my paintings will be exhibited at the fabulous Greene Art Gallery in Guilford, CT beginning November 14th.
Southern Peaches, oil on panel, ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze

If you are not familiar with Greene Art Gallery, well, you really should check it out NOW.

The current show is incredible and it closes Sunday, Nov. 10th. It's a celebration of renowned still life/trompe l'oeil artist, Ken Davies, whose work is collected in major museums.

"Ken Davies, from His Atelier" is a collaboration between Mr. Davies and his students - all amazing, fine artists. Here is a link to the show catalog with beautiful images to go along with the beautiful and bittersweet story about how the exhibit came to be.

As exquisite as these images are, they don't do justice to the paintings themselves which are just breathtaking. Go see them. I dare you to pick a favorite!

Of course, if you go to the Davies show, you should also go back for the opening reception of the Holiday Show, November 16th, 3 to 6 pm. Come eat, drink and be artsy as we ring in the season!

Guilford is a sweet New England town - straight out of "Currier and Ives" - it's worth the trip! At Greene, you'll also see work by many established artists: Daniel P. Buckley, Mireille Duchesne... and now, Dorothy Lorenze!

Novel Exploration, 12x16" oil, ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze

Hope to see you all the Greene Art Gallery's Holiday Show reception on November 16th!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Roseville Vase - contemporary realism with a classical approach

This is a quick post about the slow process of creating a representational painting using the classical, atelier method.

It starts with the drawing and transfer stage, before even beginning to paint.
  •  careful, thorough drawing
  •  copy and reduce for a small "poster"/study
  •  apply paint on back of drawing 
  •  trace drawing transferring it to a prepared panel
  •  paint the small poster, working out value and composition issues

Drawing, copy and preparation for transfer.

This is the drawing, transferred to a neutral grey, gessoed panel, with the first pass of painting begun.

The finished poster is a sweet little painting - only 4.5x6". I'm looking forward to displaying a collection of these little guys - like family snapshots!

Finally, the "real" painting starts. Transfer steps are repeated with the full size drawing and it's time to begin the actual painting!

Patience, that's what it takes. It's a long process but the effort is well worthwhile. Spending time with the still life set up - drawing, tracing, painting, tracing again and painting again - brings a greater level of familiarity. Subtle differences in color warmth and value become easier to find. It's true: the more you look, the more you see, the better the painting.


Roseville Vase and Plums, 9x12" ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze

An exciting development, since adopting this classical method, is that my artwork will be represented by Greene Art Gallery in Guilford, CT, beginning in November. I am thrilled and honored! 

Right now there is an awesome exhibit of still life and trompe l'oeil paintings by the renowned artist Ken Davies and his Atelier which I can't wait to see!

Gallery representation is an exciting milestone and it also means that my website must be updated. During the transition www.dorothylorenze.com will be inactive for a few days. In the meantime, if there is a painting you are interested in you, can reach me by email at dlorenze@me.com.

Thanks for viewing my art and traveling this creative road with me!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Painting a "Novel Exploration"

Finally finished the book painting. How did it stress me? Let me count the ways...
  • perspective
  • fore-shortening
  • elipses
  • type rendering
  • metallic shine
Yep, that's most of the stress. The thing that kept me going was the composition and the details, as usual.

Warning: Stacking books is obsessive. Although it's not proven to be hazardous to health, it may result in  p r o l o n g e d  periods of tweaking angles, re-thinking color choices, and substituting sizes. Essentially, it's the painter's version of sampling fonts for graphic designers.

Novel Exploration ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze, 12x16"

These old books have so much character. They were carefully selected in my travels from California to Connecticut to the Carolinas. (Apparently the "C" states read more books.) I searched antique shops up and down the east coast for the horn glasses which were finally found online, in an Etsy shop appropriately named "Wanderlustwoman,"  Really.

It would be hard to pick my favorite part of this painting, although the page edges and worn spines were the most exciting to capture. They were also the most frustrating, which actually makes sense. I'm sure there is a poem or proverb somewhere about getting the most satisfaction from accomplishments that initially allude us.

Hmm. There's Emily Dickinson's:
"Success is counted sweetest by those who ne'er succeed."

That's not quite right. My goal is to improve my painting technique; to "succeed" while still enjoying the sweetness of capturing those moments of beauty, texture and light.

So, sorry, I'm not searching the web to find the perfect quote.  I'll be in my studio painting.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Well, now that I've got your attention, let me explain.

Last month another interesting art opportunity was posted on Facebook: "Drawing and Painting Architecture" with Nick Raynolds, of New York's Janus Collaborative School of Art (via through Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia).

The workshop description was "to explore drawing and painting at the intersection of the natural and man-made worlds. Part landscape, part still-life, part architectural rendering..."

An interesting subject and a fascinating location: the abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia! Peeling paint and rust, what's not to love?

So I checked out Airbnb for a reasonable reservation. (They match travelers with private apartment or room rentals.) The first option was some guy's apartment ...over a bar. Gotta say, I'm not that fearless. Then a studio space in a townhouse became available, just 2 blocks from the workshop. And the hosts are three sisters. Booked.

However, at the last minute ALL the other workshop attendees had, well, bailed out! Rather than cancel I was offered one-on-one instruction for 3 days (instead of 5). In the end the workshop was cancelled completely (don't ask). So there would be no instruction. The idea of painting in public by myself was underwhelming. Did I mention that this prison has tourists?

But take a look at the images and you'll see why I wanted to go, even alone. 

Long abandoned hallways with stark rays of light from occasional skylights...

...plus peeling paint and rust everywhere!

These walls are a far cry from my comfort zone: still life with strong stationary light sources. But I decided to pretend I could so it. Sort of like whistling in the dark... in prison. That probably happens a lot.

At first it was hard to get settled and narrow down a subject, but so far, I've got two paintings that have potential. I've also taken lots of photos and will finish these paintings in the studio.

Meanwhile, there so many great works of art in this city! I plan to revisit Eakins, Peto, Hartnett and other favorites at the Fine Art Museum. Will also go to the Barnes Foundation on this trip - it's been "on my list" for so long. Plus Nick (the would-be instructor) is giving a lecture on representational art at Fleisher. His training is from Water Street Atelier and other classical studios and his work is gorgeous. I'm sure it will be interesting to meet him, finally.

This trip to Philadelphia may not be the exact adventure I was expecting, but it's been artistic and creative. And it reinforces my (apparent) theme for this year: take a chance! As they also say in Monopoly: "Go to Jail, do not pass Go..."!
In fact, never pass go.

http://vimeo.com/21475881Take Risks

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back to school!

I've always loved "back-to-school" time. Always (not just when my kids were going). Call me crazy, but I find the ritual of preparation exciting.

Not so coincidentally the background for this September still life is an unfolded paper bag - like we used to cover textbooks "back in the day." The final painting may not include paper bag creases, but it's making me smile as I prepare for the painting.

And I'm happy to say I'm "back to school" too. Back to art studies with my studio buddies and our painting-master-guru, Todd Casey. Here's a look at the classical preparation and process we're learning.

This set-up took forever. I tweaked the book placement many times, tried many different  objects before settling on the horn rims and the magnifying glass.

The drawing: well, suffice it to say that perspective and fore-shortening are challenging and after a day of drawing... I re-drew most of it! 

Transferring the drawing to canvas is done by painting on the back and using a red pen to trace over so you can see that no lines are missed. Just like graphite transfer paper, but with paint.

And then it's time to paint... in miniature! A small poster study gets the basic information in place. This step helps to see how the colors and shapes relate. It's 4x6" and took about 4 hours. So now I have a sweet little study of the painting-to-be!

"Creative Study" 8x10" ©2012 Dorothy Lorenze

The final painting is not done yet, well, it's not even begun. So here's another small painting with that back-to-school feel.
"Learn something!!!" That was my Dad's command as we left for school each day. Sure, we rolled our eyes, but I guess it stayed with me.

Live and learn? or is it: learn and live? Either way: "back to school!" I'm all for it.

Thanks for joining my artistic journey.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Uh oh, my painting is getting rusty!

And the painting is peeling!!! Well, not the painting's oil paint.

My artistic inspiration sometimes comes from unusual places. A case in point: Stuart's Apple Farm (my neighborhood orchard). But it's not about rolling hills with rows of trees and fabulously farm fresh apples. Not this time anyway. It's the fascinating old rusty farm stuff like this gas pump. What a relic!

Rust and peeling paint have been intriguing me lately. Maybe it's the patterns, or the lack of a predictable pattern! You can't have preconceived notions about how rust should look. You just have to go with it. This old gas pump has rust and peeling paint - which made tackling painted type worth the challenge!

"Fuel Fossil" 9x12" ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze
In other art-seeking adventures I recently visited the site of a historic home being renovated by the Somers Land Trust. I had gone in search of an interesting chunk of old wood to use as a surface for still life objects but ended up taking lots of photos of old wall studs and peeling window sills. Oh the possibilities. Just wait.

Meanwhile, back on the farm... literally: apples are already available at Stuart's. They are crisp and tart and sweet. Seriously, is your mouth watering yet? Go get some. And while you are there, pay homage to an original "fuel fossil," in the rust... so to speak.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What I did on my summer vacation...

It's almost "back to school" so I thought I'd share what I did on my summer vacation. And I'm happy to say it wasn't a break from painting!

My trip south this year was a little shorter than usual, but amazingly, in between Little League games, swim meets and family visits lots of painting were completed. Many were inspired by trips to the wonderful farmers markets (where I amused my family by choosing fruits and vegetables for their form and color rather than taste).

Standing Figs, 5x5" ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze
There were gorgeous figs. I never get to eat the figs - they are always way over-ripe by the time the painting is finished. Luscious peaches, red cabbage...and quail eggs! The eggs came home with me... very carefully.
Southern Peaches, 6x9" ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze

Lots of other art-activity as well. We visited every gallery in Charlotte this summer. The best was McColl Fine Art where it felt almost like visiting old friends since so many names were familiar.  Many are former classmates of my teacher Todd Casey and modern masters of representational painting, in my humble opinion. I felt like I knew them already but actually seeing the work itself was fantastic and inspiring. Paintings by Carlos Madrid, Joshua LaRock, Travis Schlaht, Nicholas Hiltner and Donald Jurney as well as other wonderful contemporary realist painters are exhibited at McColl. What a treat!

A couple of road trips added to the art adventures. This painting was part of a plein air excursion to Olana, the home of Frederic Church in Hudson, NY. Such a beautiful estate! The morning painting was comfortable but it got up to around 90ยบ by afternoon and we melted so I have nothing to show from after lunch (they told me plein air was an extreme sport, it's true).
Olana Hudson View, 9x12" @2013 Dorothy Lorenze

Last week we took a short trip to Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme to bask in the beauty of American Impressionists and imagine what it was like to be part of that illustrious artist colony! It's a fantastic museum on beautiful grounds, including a restored, historic home less than 2 hours from Somers. I can't believe I'd never gone before! And the shore towns along the way are just full of fine galleries. Plus when you need a break, there is water-view dining or happy-hour at historic inns. Gaze and graze. It's perfect.
Jule 6x6" ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze

And finally, this portrait of my grand daughter was painted for the upcoming portrait show at Katonah Museum. Another new and challenging art experience but truly a joy in the end! Which is totally appropriate for this sweet girl.

Summer's almost over but you can still take a look at my summer's bounty of artwork. Stop in at Who's Cooking in Croton Falls through the end of September. I will also have several paintings at Katonah Museum of Art and Ridgefield Guild of Artists in Ridgefield, CT during September. I hope you have enjoyed a creative and happy summer!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cookin' Up Art

Cooking and painting are kind of connected. Quality ingredients, imagination and spice (culinary or visual) matter. Onerous and odorous tasks have their place as well.

Most paintings go through an "ugly duckling" stage when shapes are blocked in but nothing is well developed. It's discouraging and you can't believe it will ever look like the intended subject (whose idea was it to paint a dozen garlic heads, anyway?!).

I think of it as the "cutting onions" stage, a painful step in the process of cooking. Painting can be like that. You have a sense of the finished piece but getting through that stage where nothing blends together is no fun. Let's skip cutting onions and get to the part where we savor the stir fry! As Rousseau says, "Patience is bitter, but it's fruit is sweet" The philosopher probably wasn't talking about cooking or painting, but you get the point. Patience, perseverance and the belief that it will eventually come together keep us going.

Ottawa Garlic Braid © 2013 Dorothy Lorenze
This braid of garlic was started nearly a year ago. I blocked in the forms, got distracted (or discouraged?) and set it aside. The canvas sat there in the "cutting onions" stage mocking me for
months. And stinking up the studio! In fact there was such a strong smell that I attributed it to a studio-mate's onion still life, but no, it was my garlic braid screaming for attention!

Modeling the form of one garlic head was complex enough, but then there was another, and another... x12.  Patience! After spending nearly two weeks painting the garlic, I was pleased. But now that I see it finished, I'm just crazy about the shadow. Go figure! I hope you like it. It's 8 x 16" and has a beautiful antique style frame from Custom Frame Solutions.

Here's another connection between cooking and painting: an exhibition of my paintings at Who's Cooking in Croton Falls. Stop by to vote for your favorite of the "Nostalgia Captured in Oil" group. I'd love to know what captures your attention, what is it that appeals to you? Fill out a ballot and stick it in the box. At the end of September, one name will be drawn to receive a set of note cards depicting their chosen painting.

And while you're there pick up something delicious from Who's Cooking! It's a great place to stop for tea and sweets or take home a fabulous home cooked dinner. (No one needs to know that you didn't cut the onions).

Front Street opposite the Croton Falls train station

Friday, July 26, 2013

Oilcan Gothic

You know Grant Wood's "American Gothic" right? Dour woman next to somber man with pitchfork? Standing side by side and all serious about life. I was reminded of that painting when I put these oilcans together.

Not that I'm comparing! But, I can make a sort of connection.

Wood's "American Gothic" has been described as a "depiction of the American pioneer spirit." Well, I'm from New York so it's not quite my pioneer spirit. Pitchforks? No. Oilcans, definitely.

My Dad was a pilot, but he was, above all, a master tinkerer. There wasn't anything he couldn't repair or improve. His pioneer spirit included inventing ways to make tasks easier. And we kids were part of his team: building, digging... whatever. There was never any thought of hiring someone to do a job. Just figure it out. So I guess that's why old tools trigger nostalgia for me.

Working on this painting I thought about his many projects and all the supplies we fetched: "Workbench. Left side. Third shelf. In the back. I'm counting to ten." Tasks mixed with the scent of oil and sawdust.

Adding more personal meaning is the 200 year old beam - it's from my basement. Such character in old wood! The oilcan on the left was lent by a friend. I found the blue one in an antique shop and it was love at first sight.

Don't they make the perfect couple? She: elegant in a silvery, Cinderella gown. He: tall and handsome in dress blues (use your imagination, people). Clearly, there's nothing they can't handle.

Quintessentially American Gothic of the workingclass/workbench variety!

"Oilcan Gothic" ©Dorothy Lorenze.  oil on linen  11x14"

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Independence Rules!

July 4th - our national holiday dedicated to Independence! How great is that!?! In addition to raising the flag and honoring country maybe take a minute to ponder your personal independence. Not just freedom, as awesome as that is, but independence.

It may sound self-centered, but go ahead, you've got congress behind you. More or less.

This independence-thing has to do with knowing and doing what's best for you - as in being your best self ...not selfish. So it's also about caring for others and being the best parent-partner-person possible. But you can't be yourself if you lose yourself always going-with-the-flow or pleasing anyone-but-yourself. It's far easier said than done.

Take a chance and break out of some anti-independence habits this July 4th:
  • forget about what's "trending" - connect with what inspires you 
  • leave negativity behind - embrace those of generous spirit
  • move beyond your comfort zone - push the limits to see what you can actually do
  • believe in yourself like your life depends on YOU - because, honestly... it does
Independent thinking is an important element of creativity. It's been a pretty creative year for me and I just want to wish everyone all the joy that comes from being yourself and reaching toward your dreams and goals.  

Be your own most creative self!
Happy Independence Day!

For the patriotic July 4th, I'm posting my only red, white and blue painting. Coincidentally, it was sold at my very first, independent, solo, art exhibit - something that used to be way outside my comfort zone.

Chubby Pepper ©2012 Dorothy Lorenze

Sunday, June 30, 2013

"A Quail walks into a bar...

...no, a firehouse. She makes friends with the dalmatian... yeah, that's it..."

Something like that has to explain how those crazy spots got on the quail eggs, right? I'm no zoologist, but it makes sense to me!

Meanwhile, here they are: a pair of quail eggs, cozying up with each other and they need a title. I know you all are just dying to help me out.

What do you think?
There's something about the spots that looks kind of worldly, like earth from space... sort of.
So maybe -
    • You Are My World  
    •  Eggsisting World
Or pun-i-ness -
    • Quails by Comparison
    • Quail Watching
 Or descriptive -
    • Speckled Reflections
    • Eggceptional Beauties 
I just can't decide. So suggestions are welcome!

©2013 Dorothy Lorenze

In any case, they were great fun to paint. And take my word for it - all the spots are painted exactly as they were in real life on the actual eggs!!!  ;-)

(If you believe that, you're probably also good with, "a quail walks into a bar, no a firehouse...")

Friday, June 28, 2013

Flower Painting #2

Hydrangea's are another lifelong favorite flower. The deep blue-to-pink are everywhere in Charlotte right now. But the delicate, pale blue color that intrigued me was harder to find. I had almost reached the point of knocking on doors with a scissor in hand... but then Trader Joe's made my day.

Since flowers are still not in my comfort zone, putting them in a silver teapot helped.
reflections = security
(although on FB one person thought it was a copper kettle not a silver teapot :-(   the coppery color is actually a reflection of the warm wood it sits on)
Hydrangea Tea ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze

In Julian Merrow Smith's workshop we were encouraged to look through art books for similar subjects or treatments when presented with a challenging element and I didn't have to go far to find an excellent example of a lovely blue hydrangea. Claudia Hammer, a Daily Paintworks painter has a beautiful hydrangeas that you can see here.

So now that I've learned to enjoy painting hydrangeas, maybe I can learn to grow them! They don't seem to want to flower in my garden in New York. Weird 'cause I grew up with them on Long Island. Oh well....gardening advice is welcome.

PS - the teapot is from the United States Navy (it has USN on the bottom). Who knew our armed services were ever so elegant!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fig Painting and Color Confusion

Color is not so obvious. There are three attributes of color to consider in painting: hue (actual color name), value (dark/light) and saturation (dull/intense). And they are all relative. While the basic fig "hue" is pretty much a bluish purple, the variations in "value" and "saturation" help turn those purple egg shapes into figs.

These images from James Gurney's blog (Dinotopia creator) are cool optical illusions that show how dramatically value and hue can appear to change based on surroundings.

Check this out:
In the checkerboard, grey squares #1 and #2 are exactly the same color! Being me, I had to test it for myself in Photoshop. It's true: virtually identical RGB mixes for both.
© James Gurney's blog: Checkerboard
Same thing with hue - it's influenced by surrounding color information. Here's an almost unbelievable example, also from James Gurney's blog.

from James Gurney's blog: Color Constancy
James painted these and he wrote: "... the cyan square in the bottom corner of the red-lit scene is exactly the same color mixture as the red square in the upper corner of the green-lit scene."  Again, it checks out in Photoshop! And Photoshop never lies! (stop laughing, in this case it's true... I promise)

So, this phenomenon occurs everywhere and these vivid illustrations really helped remind me that color areas have to be looked at both independently and in relation to surrounding colors and values.

My figs are basically three purplish ovals, with a greener hue for the center fig. The roundness of the forms, surface details and areas of interest are established with subtle variations in value and saturation.
Three Little Figs ©2913 Dorothy Lorenze
Its a perfect example of why still life is such a fascinating painting genre. I love, love, LOVE traipsing through the labyrinth of color misdirections to figure out what's really there.

PS - Read more fro James Gurney by clicking here.
PPS - I wish I knew a good sports analogy to explain how exciting it is to me when these things come together. I'll have to ask the swimmers and baseball players who occupy all my non-painting time in the summer!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Farmer's Market Figs

Figs are irresistible for painters. The subtle ribbing is a wonderful challenge to render. And the color is so rich. I couldn't wait to capture the blue/grey of the fig on the right. It has that powdery coating like a blueberry when it's at the untouched-and-dusty stage of ripening.

Painting in oils, you're supposed to get in the darks first - it's much harder to darken light colors. But I was anxious to find that dusty color so I tried starting with the lighter tones.

Live and learn. The initial light blue was not nearly dusty enough (too bright, too dark, too colorful). It needed neutrals and deeper tones for comparison.

These figs are sitting on a satiny silver surface. Starting with the neutral grey of the metal, probably would have helped. However muted, they will look more colorful against grey - it's all relative!

Here's the "final" version of "Standing Figs." I might tweak a bit later when it's dry, but I'm pretty happy as it is right now.
"Standing Figs" ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze

Monday, June 17, 2013

Creativity and Kindness

Since I started this journey to become a painter I have met some of the most amazing, creative, wise, and supportive people! The generosity of artists who share their knowledge and their enthusiasm has been fantastic. From family who are always cheering, to internet "friends" and artists who meet virtually or locally and share art info, to studio and plein air pals who make painting dates - you really keep me going. Thank you!

The experience of being with 12 painters at Julian Merrow Smith's plein air workshop was a perfect example. Part of the magic was thinking about nothing but making art for a week. But the other part of the magic was the excitement and good will of a dozen artists of varied backgrounds and abilities who wanted nothing less than for everyone to succeed. Every artist should experience this!

Sure we were "on vacation" and the south of France is not too shabby, but it was a slightly daunting adventure to travel so far and stay with people we'd never met, learn a new painting genre with a new painting teacher and basically be little fish in a big (unfamiliar) pond. Happily, there was a built in support system of good people and honest critiquing. Learning and improving was cheered by all.

So, cheers to all of you who support artists - you make it possible for us to take that leap of faith! Believe me, we need and appreciate your positive energy!

In the spirit of a leap of faith ... and inspired by wild poppy fields ... I've taken another stab at dealing with red petals. The field of wild poppies was so beautiful it could make you cry. Unfortunately, my painting of the field almost made me cry as well. I need to have another go at it, but for now, these poppies are making me smile!

These beauties are from the farmer's market in Charlotte where I am happily visiting another group of highly positive and supportive art lovers! (One of whom once said "Gramma's are kind of magical" - how's that for instilling positive energy!)

Persevering Poppies ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze

I'm happy to say that Julian Merrow Smith has just announced two more plein air workshops this fall. If you want to be immersed in creativity and kindness, sign up and spend a week painting in Provence with Julian! You'll never forget it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Painting in Provence #1

I've been very much away (from reality and life as I know it) but have finally returned to earth after a heavenly week painting in Provence with Julian Merrow Smith.

It was an incredible experience and there is so much to say! I had all good intentions of writing while there but we were totally immersed in painting all day! Afterwards we critiqued, talked, ate, drank local wine and ... sang!
Hey, "one does what one must" to alleviate the discomfort of standing all day in the elements.

They say plein air painting can be an extreme sport and now I understand why: we fought the cold, wind and rain; hiked through waist high grass and climbed rugged, rocky, hilly terrain - all to find the perfect vista to paint (well, the rocky, hilly, terrain might have been the stone path to the  kitchen where I made tea, but you get the idea).

Some of the challenges:
  • Paint fast before the light changes! (you may recall that my "3-hour" pear painting actually took 3 days).
  • Paint green that doesn't look like kermit the frog, colored with basic crayola 16-crayon box green.
  • Forget/reverse still life thinking: objects get lighter as they recede in landscapes.
  • Don't freeze (I packed for spring - apparently more experience with traveling is required) 

In an effort to get complex greens, my first painting looked like mud (or the related French word "merde")

Looks more like the rainy, wintery day we were battling than the lovely, spring weather we had hoped for. Although, if you look closely there is a hint of poppies blooming between the rows.

I was discouraged but determined and set forth to conquer green! These are better greens and it's less muddy, but the trees look like the they were made by Lionel for train tables. Sigh.

I hung in there and will post some other/better(?) paintings soon. 

Plein air painting is HARD. Unlike still life painting, you don't get to position the light source and place the objects ever-so-precisely where you like. You have to work fast and that damn sun moves while you're trying to keep consistent light on the canvas and palette! Not to mention the unpredictable weather!  It's frustrating, exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time.

Is there any wonder we drank wine at the end of the day?!

Seriously, this was such an amazing trip - with great instruction by Julian Merrow Smith, astounding organization by Ruth Philips and the most awesome, energetic and supportive group of intrepid painters focused on a totally artistic experience for all! Even with the challenges, frustrations and difficulties, I never once resorted to collapsing on my "fainting couch" although clearly, it was tempting!

Did I mention that we stayed at La Madelene, a 12th century priory transformed to a Country French B&B?

No? Well, as I said, plein air painting is a rugged, extreme sport. Sort of.

Oh, it was a thoroughly wonderful week! So much to cherish, so stay tuned for more tales from my Provence painting adventure!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Art of Mother's Day

If I wasn't a Mom, I might not be an artist.

It's hard to say because you can only live your life in the order it happens and while there are always side tracks, there are no real do-overs.

But here's the thing... my children made me believe in myself. I know it's supposed to be the other way around - and I'm sure that's also true - but the point I want to make is that my kids helped me discover my confidence.

As parents we're often whistling in the dark, doing the best we can and wishing we were sure it was the right thing. But then your kids look up at you and they're little and you're big and they believe you! Most of the time what you're trying to get them to believe is that it really is bedtime, or vegetables really are good. And that works, eventually, because that's how it is - parents are supposed to know!

But at the same time that we're giving them guidance and responsibility, they're giving us a kind of power that comes from the need to be strong and brave for THEM. Which is so much easier than being strong and brave for yourself. When your kids think you can do something, you kind of have to give it a try!

Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma) Moses once said, "If I didn't start painting, I would have raised chickens."

Four Feathers ©2009 Dorothy Lorenze
That's just so down to earth! She must have been a confident woman.

I might not have raised chickens (chickadees perhaps) but I can tell you for sure that my children raised me to be an artist. And, for that and so much more, I am more grateful than words can say.

Happy Mother's Day!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Being "in the moment"

from A-Mused by Philip Chircop
Admittedly I am not the most practiced practitioner of yoga. 
This could be me:

You're supposed "be in the moment," pay attention to "now" and appreciate where you are at this particular point in time. Because you can't ever have done what you are doing right now, in exactly the same way, ever before. Got that?

However, as I struggled with a yoga chair pose (not sitting in a chair: being the chair) I was thinking about painting and how this concept might apply. Hmm, not so very zen-like.

Here's what I'm thinking: it could also be about having the grace to appreciate whatever your level of ability is while you are actually doing a thing. Yoga or art.

In art, maybe that means being less judgmental and valuing every experience as it happens. That's not easy when you are your own best critic!

But  this yoga mindset might be taking hold... a little. I have two paintings of the same pewter pitcher on my wall. One was done about 4 years ago when I was just beginning to use oils.

This, small painting was my first time doing a silvery/pewter color and rendering abstracted shapes in reflection. Grey is hard! So is yellow. But it turned out OK and I like the former-graphic-designer influence in the pattern of those reflected colors.

Pewter Pitcher ©2009 Dorothy Lorenze

Recently, I painted the same pitcher again. I know I've learned a lot since the first one. (Thank you Todd Casey)

The hardest part was probably figuring out the right color for the shine on the ribbon: add yellow, not white! The new painting is rendered more accurately, perspective is better, the colors are more complex and it has a greater range of values. Those are all important improvements and I'm pretty pleased with the result.

But, in the spirit of yoga and appreciating "being in the moment", I'm also glad I can look at the earlier painting and not say "I should have..."

So now they are both hanging on my dining room wall. Looking at them together I truly appreciate what went into each piece at the time. I love the shape and the finish on this little pewter guy and will probably paint it many more times. Pewter Pitcher Milestones!

Satin, Pewter and Quartz ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze
I've posted this one framed because the frame just suits the painting so well! It's from Custom Frame Solutions where you can get reasonably-priced, quality frames in any custom size.  Take a look. They're having a sale for Cinco de Mayo!