Monday, April 25, 2016

News (and honors!) from the studio...

...with thanks and appreciation for my generous friends!

I'm pleased to say two paintings have recently received awards and one was selected for a museum exhibit. All three came into being thanks to supportive friends. I have such generous friends!

Sitting Pretty ©2014 Dorothy Lorenze
Most recently Sitting Pretty received SCAN's Society of Creative Arts of Newtown's award at their Spring Juried Exhibit. This interior painting depicts the sitting or dressing room connected to the bedroom in a friend's beautiful Victorian home. It's a very interesting layout with an alcove leading into the sitting room, which leads into the bedroom. And the cool thing is the jury said that they liked how the viewer is brought into the space through the angles and contrasting light. And that's exactly what had attracted me to this view as well.

Also recently, Mechanical Staccato and Scotch received the award for Outstanding Still Life from American Women Artists' national online exhibit. This is pretty exciting because as a national organization, it's kind of difficult to get into AWA shows at all as they receive thousands of entries.

The subject of this painting is a vintage typewriter belonging to my friend Rich. Actually... Rich has quite a collection of typewriters and he'd been "offering" to loan me one for a while. But I didn't bite for quite some time because it's a complicated machine with many tiny parts, perfectly uniform in size and shape: 32 matching keys. Plus shading and highlights for each. Seriously. Eventually I realized Rich wanted the painting for himself, so it was actually meant to be a commission (perhaps I was in denial). Once I got into it i really enjoyed it. I guess the jurors appreciated the challenge as they awarded it Outstanding Still life! Very cool. The full exhibit will be online shortly, but for now you can see a link to the award winners here.

Mechanical Staccato and Scotch ©2015 Dorothy Lorenze
This week I'm heading to southern New Jersey to bring my painting Vintage Sleigh Bells to the John Peto Studio Museum in Island Heights for their International Trompe L'Oeil Exhibit. As I explained in an earlier post, the sleigh bells have been in the family of a friend for generations. They are old and somewhat fragile so it was an honor to be entrusted with them. The added benefit to this trip is that there are many antique shops along the way and I'm looking forward to scoping out new painting subjects!
Vintage Sleigh Bells ©2015 Dorothy Lorenze

Below are some details about the John Peto Studio Museum exhibit. If you are in the area this summer, check it out! It very cool place to visit and be in this renowned artist's home and work space.

The show promises to be amazing and when I have the complete list of artists I will share.The few I know of are truly amazing and it's kind of amazing to be in their company!

Thanks for joining me on my artist journey.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Building a painting, alla prima

My usual method of painting involves the classical technique of first doing a fully rendered drawing on paper, then transferring it to canvas or board. It's a bit more time consuming, as I've described in a previous post. But with live flowers, time is of the essence.

Here are the steps for drawing and painting all at once, or alla prima. It's also known as "direct" painting, as apposed to "indirect" painting when drawing is completed before beginning to paint.

So, below left is my set up with those robust ranunculus. The first stage on the prepared board shows marking placement of the vase with the central axis just slightly off-center making room for the shadow to help balance the composition. The far right image shows how the brush is held loosely for a more organic feel.

Once the vase placement is set, it's time to focus on those flowers since they will not last long. The loosely painted drawing below is done with thinned paint to allow for changes. It's like sketching with charcoal - if you make enough lines, eventually you can tell which ones work and which ones don't! In the second image thinner (gamsol) on a cloth is used to wipe out areas that are not working. 

Next the darks are indicated. Darkest values help establish movement through the composition so it's good to note early on where they should be. Last is the completed underpainting. In addition to acting as a drawing/road map for the painting, an underpainting connects all elements with a consistent, underlying tone.

In the group of images below the first pass of color has been established for the flowers (still holding off on the vase to focus on the fresh flowers). Then I worked the background around the flowers to integrate it with foreground objects while the paint is wet. Plus, creating soft edges in wet paint helps objects recede. Finally, the finished painting.

This one is called "Unruly Ranunculus." Because, if you know ranunculus, the stems just do their own thing! I actually needed a clothespin to weigh down the yellow flower on the right to keep it in position. Ranunculus are the most beautiful multi-multi-petaled flowers! Like roses that couldn't decide when to quit!
Unruly Ranunculus ©2016 Dorothy Lorenze, 8x8"
Happy Spring!

Thanks for joining me on my art journey. Wishing you a very creative season!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Hanging in a Museum: every artist's dream

Here's some crazy, exciting news: my painting Vintage Sleigh Bells will be hanging in a Museum! It's been accepted to the International Trompe L'oeil Exhibit at the John Peto Museum - quite an honor! The show runs from May 15 - Sept 5th, so I like to think of it as a semi-permanent museum acquisition (wink wink)
Vintage Sleigh Bells ©2015 Dorothy Lorenze

I first visited the John Peto Museum for a painting workshop. It was pretty special to be painting in the studio of the accomplished still life and trompe l'oeil artist in Island Heights, NJ. And just my luck - their International Trompe l'oeil Show was on exhibit in the gallery at the time.

So what exactly is "trompe l'oeil"? Basically, it's French for "fool the eye" and, generally, it does. This style of painting has been around since Vesuvius. It was part of the Renaissance exploration of perspective and reached a higher level of illusion and tom-foolery with Flemish and Dutch painters in the late 1750s. Works typically include still life objects set up in a shallow space, where shadows create the illusion of depth. The objects are generally painted at actual size with unusual details, like peeling tape or a fly that just landed on a window sill - or even a hand reaching out of a well-rendered frame. The result is that the subject appears to have has been captured "as is." A popular motif in the 1800s was the old fashioned "letter rack" - an early kind of bulletin board - with papers and notes tucked under crisscrossed ribbons. Guess you could say my sleigh bells are kind of a barnyard version of that.

John Peto did many trompe l'oeil paintings. He was an American artist painting in the late 1800s in New Jersey. He also created traditional still lifes, but in my opinion, his trompe l'oeil paintings were much more interesting. A contemporary of William Hartnett who was a bit older and more successful, Peto gained prominence when several of his paintings were actually mistaken for Hartnett's. At the time Hartnett was in important museum collections and Peto was not, so it was a fortuitous confusion.

Below is John Peto's classic Letter Rack and to the right is his Reminiscences of 1865. Letter rack paintings such as these often chronicle an event or tell a story so including a variety of objects is helpful to reinforce the narrative.
Trompe L'oeil paintings by John Peto

I'm not sure if trompe l'oeil is having a resurgence of popularity in general... or just for me. On a gallery-hunting trip in CT two years ago I came upon the work of Michael Theise, a contemporary painter who often paints money. Such skill! Also, the gallery that was representing my work in Guilford, CT held an exhibition of still life and trompe l'oeil by master painter Ken Davies along with other atelier artists working directly with him, including Theise. Quite a coincidence.

I've always found trompe l'oeil effects kind of fascinating and actually incorporated them in decorative painting many years ago. So I guess that's what gave me the nerve to submit work to the Peto Museum. "Hey, you never know...!"

Below are some simple trompe l'oeil designs from those earlier decorative painting days, painted with acrylics on wooden furnishings. (Not great photos, but you get the idea.)

The sleigh bells in my painting for the Peto exhibit actually belong to friends who, for generations have fooled the ear, if not the eye, of their little ones by jingling the bells to surreptitiously announce the arrival of Santa's reindeer. Many thanks to Audrey and John for entrusting this family heirloom to me!

If you're interested in seeing the International Trompe L'oeil exhibit in Island Heights this spring/summer, check out their link. According to the exhibition committee, "We received an unprecedented number of entries this year and the quality of the artwork is very high." Well that sounds pretty darn wonderful!

Thank you for joining me on my artistic journey.