Sunday, December 24, 2017

Peace, joy and merriment!

Dear Friends,

Here's to enjoying holiday festivities with family and friends!

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is just about behind us and we have the New Year to look forward to with all its creative opportunities. I'm looking back on the past year with appreciation for warm fuzzy moments, artistic adventures and art accomplishments. I hope you are too.

My sincere thanks to all of you who added to my joyful days and spurred me on with encouraging words throughout the year.

THANK YOU! It means more than you can know.

christmas art, santa art, oil painting

Santa's Chocolate Shadow © 2017 Dorothy Lorenze
Merry Christmas
and best wishes for a 
peaceful (and productive) New Year!

Thanks for following me on my artistic journey.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I’m not usually star-struck or celebrity conscious, but when I read about FACE, the first art convention focusing on figurative and representational art, with its line up of contemporary, master artists - I was hooked.

The roster of the amazing included-
FACE 2017, Max GInsburg
Max Ginsburg's portrait demo at FACE 2017
  • Juliette Aristedes 
  • Daniel Graves 
  • Daniel Gerhartz 
  • Sherrie McGraw 
  • David Leffel 
  • Jordan Sokol
  • Max Ginsburg 
  • Patricia Watwood 
  • Michael Mentler
  • Steven Assael 
  • Jacob Collins 
  • John Coleman
  • Graydon Parrish 
  • Gregory Mortenson
Some demonstrated, some spoke. All were there to promote representational art as a source of soulful beauty in a world where Modern Art has come to mean just about anything. Well, anything except skillful rendering and execution (in my humble opinion).

FACE2017, Steven AssaelBelow is an example of classical drawing technique by Steven Assael from his talk, Evolution. Steven said an artist should first "respond" to the subject and then plan the artwork. He told artists,
"develop an awareness of your world - what matters, how you absorb and make use of the past - to find your subject."
(Hmm, maybe that's why I'm always painting old crap! But I do like the sentiment)

Several talks included discussions on upholding the value of skilled representational painting. Shannon Robinson of Collectors for Connoisseurship described visual art as providing personal expression, social function, spirituality, aesthetic expression and more. Artist and art educator Virgil Elliot stated,
“To create compelling visual imagery, I maintain, is itself an intellectually challenging endeavor worthy of the utmost respect.” And “The best artwork ever done has the power to inspire, all by itself. It needs … only to be seen, to work its magic”
Artists and art lovers were challenged to help the work to be seen, to foster and honor the classical traditions of representational art. Ideally realism goes beyond the skill of “painting things to look like things” and captures the spirit and emotion of the subject, as in this self portrait by Daniel Graves, aptly titled, Surviving Modern Art.
FACE 2017, Daniel Graves
Surviving Modern Art, ©2014 Daniel Graves
Publisher and marketing expert Eric Rhoads and magazine editor Peter Trippi discussed the art market today including the role of galleries and social media. They emphasized that even if an artist is working with a gallery, it’s important to have a website and to maintain a presence on social media. We have to be our own best advocates in order to be seen above the busy-ness of our media-driven world.

If you’re reading this I already know that you appreciate representational art. So I challenge you to spread the word, promote the artists whose work you admire and perhaps bestow a bit of beauty in the form of original artwork to those you love this season. Being a Patron of the Arts sounds like a lofty term but it really applies to all who support artists and fine art. Your support will be appreciated more than you know by the artists whose work you collect as well as those who get to enjoy work you admire. More beauty for everyone.

Studio session at FACE 2017 in Miami
For me the convention culminated with artist/professor Brian Curtis’ presentation entitled Beauty, Quality and the Good: Art as a Material Reflection of a Spiritual Reality. That’s a daunting topic. My takeaway is this quote, which sums up the “why” of appreciating representational art:
“Art is an implicit, intuitive, metaphorical, spirit-enhancing sensory experience that nurtures the soul and drives life’s evolutionary arrow forward.”
Who doesn’t want more of that in the world!

In the spirit of Thankfulness for your ongoing interest and support, here are some links of other artist friends whose work you will enjoy… and perhaps collect! I know I'm forgetting some and others don't have a website yet (don't worry, I won't tell Eric) but I'll be happy to share when they do!

Cindy Sacks
Chrissanth Gross
Peggy Davidson Post
Rich Alexander
Laura Gould
Sally Franklin
Lori McQueeney
Jamie Grossman
Johanne Morin
Paula Wittlin
Todd M. Casey
Happy Thanksgiving
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer
Or, in other words -
"... we get by with a little help from our friends."John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Workshop in my studio with Todd Casey and friends, old and new.

Thank you for joining me on my art journey.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happiness and trepidation

Earlier this month I had the honor of receiving Best in Show at a Putnam Arts Council exhibit for my painting Cabinet of Basketry. It was my first "best in show" but the honor was tempered by concern for the subject of the painting.
antique cupboard, dusty blue paint, baskets
Cabinet of Basketry ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze

This painting shows the interior of a colonial house that was moved to California wine country and lovingly restored and rebuilt on a mountainside vineyard... which last month was surrounded by raging fires. The house belongs to a friend of a friend and when we visited, I fell in love with the place. Each room is a gem, with intimate nooks and crannies full of authentic antiques and furnishings. I was thrilled to be able to take photos for future paintings.

Then, for a very long week, voracious California fires approached the area. Looking at maps and reports it was impossible to tell if the house had been spared, but I'm happy to say that all is well. The home owner and her critters were safely evacuated and the house survived!

The fires were devastating and heartbreaking for so many, so it's wonderful to be able to report this happy outcome.

In other good news, two of my paintings, Gentleman Caller and If Wishes Were Horses sold after a collector in Colorado saw my work in Southwest Art magazine, which led him to check out my website! Many thanks to this new curious collector, to Southwest Art and to American Women Artists because receiving an award in their online exhibit is how my work was brought to the attention of Southwest Art.

Everything's connected on the internet!

Gentleman Caller ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze
If Wishes Were Horses ©2017 Lorenze
And lastly, I participated in an exhibition at the Carriage Barn Art Center in Darien, CT which was a benefit for the Alzheimers Association of CT. I'm happy to say both of my paintings sold, supporting a cause that is especially important to me since my mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimers. 

Daffodil Launch ©2017 Lorenze
Ranunculus in Crystal ©2017 Lorenze
Thanks to all for your encouragement and kind comments. I hope to have more new work to show soon. Plus, there are a few art adventures coming up, so more on those later.

Happy Halloween!

Hope your day is full of treats!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Loss and creativity

Dear Friends,

As you know, this newsletter/blog is where I write about art, what inspires me, my painting process, upcoming events and all things art-wise. And although it’s not so much about family, sometimes that’s inescapable. I will try to stay focused on the art-side of life.

For most artists creativity seems to ebb and flow rather rhythmically and we know how to reignite the creative fire when it smolders. Sometimes it’s only a matter of going through the motions and being in your creative space to get back into that rhythm. Generally speaking I’m pretty good at staying fired up about my next art adventure. Right now, it’s so much harder.

My mother very recently died at the age of 93, and although losing her was not unexpected it has been unfathomable. I have written about my mother’s creative influence in the past, but what I will miss most is her laughter and her insights about humankind – as sarcastic as they often were!

Mom sharing her wisdom

So, I just have to say that it’s been a bit difficult to paint lately. Especially because I’m working on a personal subject, my first attempt at a "vanitas" painting. And vanitas paintings are a classic genre that, through symbolic elements, reminds us of the fragility of life. My composition is focused on the stages of life for a woman. Of course, since the references are my own, it centers on my mother. Although started months ago, it’s taken on a greater significance now. I hope I can do it justice.

Just setting up the composition and deciding what to include took a very long time. I must have photographed 10 or more variations of the elements – gathered, arranged and rearranged over many weeks - trying to make a decision.

So far I have drawn the “final” version three times and transferred it twice. I’ve completed the poster study and begun the 16 x 20” painting... which is going very slowly.

This is the small 5x6” poster study. It's a sort of trial run to check out composition and values. (symbolically the pocket watch, snuffed candle, antique doll's head, 1950s gloves, pearls, vintage photos, etc., all allude to the passage of time ... and relate to my mother's life)

vintage dolls head, old gloves, pocket watch
It’s a complex painting made more challenging by my current state of creative inertia. I've had some help easing into painting practice since a group gathers in my studio creating color wheels with Todd Casey each week. We compare pigments by various brands, make charts and totally geek out on color, mixing gradations of hue, value and chroma. It’s a meditative process with a fine bunch of fun, funny and determined painters. And it's been a perfect way to keep my hand in the paint these days.

There is good news to share, as well. Some weeks ago I was interviewed by Southwest Art magazine for their feature “Artists to Watch." I was a bit anxious leading into the interview, not knowing quite what to say. Fortunately their editor, Kim Agricola, asked interesting questions about my process and my subjects. She made me comfortable and there was a lot of laughter. You can read the article online... or pick up the October issue of Southwest Art at Barnes & Noble, it's full of inspirational artwork.
artists to watch, still life painter, dorothy lorenze
"Artists to Watch" in Southwest Art magazine, October 2017
Being professionally interviewed about my artwork: that's a first for me. I think my mother would have been proud.

As always, thank you for joining me on my art journey... and my sincere appreciation for all your kind words of sympathy and support.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Observing color and brushstrokes

This summer of travel and art adventures has been great. A recent trip to visit family in North Carolina and Georgia included a stop in New Jersey to deliver artwork to the John F. Peto Studio Museum* and a quick tour of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art in Richmond. I especially enjoyed their McGlothlin Collection of American Art and since I'm about to embark on some serious, color study with Todd Casey, I found myself focusing on the kinds of color and value subtleties that make master paintings so compelling.

The collection includes this rather dark portrait by John Singer Sargent of Madame Errazuriz. Ignoring the light glare above her head, the brightest area appears to be the tip of the lady's nose. But, in Photoshop you can sample specific areas of color and then make larger squares of that color to compare with other areas of the painting. The lightest, pink square in the close up corresponds to the tip of her nose. The square below that is the darker pink of her cheek. The vibrant pink rectangle is a tiny highlight on her lip and the dark red is the overall lip color, yet her lips seem brighter than that! Her earlobe looks similar to her nose, but its actually darker than the nose and duller than the cheek.
classical 19th century realism
Madame Errazuriz by John Singer Sargent circa 1883
That hierarchy of value and color is not what I first thought I saw, but it makes sense because areas closer to the light source should be lighter - and something to remember when painting.  

Finally, to find the lightest area overall, I compared the nose highlight to the painting's background. The nose-highlight-pink is in the circle on the light area of the background (not the glare). It's quite a bit darker as you can see in this grayscale version below - so the lightest area of the painting overall is in the background, not any of the highlighted areas of her face, even though those areas draw your attention. Surrounded by darker, duller colors, they shine!

One of the things I love about visiting new museums is being introduced to artists I don't know, like Seymour Joseph Guy. The description by this painting says he is a "British-born, American artist working in the Victorian style of academic painting... during the era of Impressionists"! Not exactly a trend follower, this guy. I loved his sweet painting, At the Operaat first sight. Then saw the many colors and values of "white" in the close up - from her gloves to the fur trim on her dress. Plus the opera glasses with their "white" mother-of-pearl veneer are quite dark because the luminescent, pearly nature of nacre adds color and shadow to their white surface. So interesting.
Classical 19th century realism
At the Opera by Seymour Joseph Guy, 1887
 There is so much information to be gained about the artist's brushwork and technique seeing the work in person. Subtleties are not lost. The beautiful painting below is by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (also new to me). The energy of his brushstrokes and subtle variety of color can best be appreciated in real life, but you can get a sense of it by looking at the detail here. Amazing! You just want to touch that fabric!
portrait painting, realism
Portrait of Lydia Schabelsky, Baroness Staël-Holstein by Franz Winterhalter
I've been fortunate to see a lot of artwork this summer but have been missing my painting practice. I am back in the studio now, focused on improving my craft, armed with information gathered from so many masterly paintings and reinforced by color study drills in Todd's color wheel class. We're a determined group and working hard at this important classical practice. (More to come.)

Through all this, I'm thinking about what it takes to make a compelling, representational painting. Much of it has to do with observing and interpreting the qualities and character of the subject. These words of wisdom from a brilliant old master and a wonderful contemporary realist that seem especially true this week.

All our knowledge has its origin in our perceptions. (Leonardo da Vinci)
I feel as though I haven't seen an object until I actually start painting it. (Janet Fish)

*If you'd like to see some challenging realism you can visit the John F. Peto Studio Museum where the concepts of perception and reality might possibly fool your eye at the Tri-state Invitational Tromp L'oeil Exhibit. The show runs through through December 10th and I'm honored that two of my paintings are included. The Peto Museum is about two and a half hours from northern Westchester in a quaint, quiet neighborhood in Island Heights on the Jersey shore (there's a really nice B&B close by in Tom's River). If you go, stop in Point Pleasant along the way for antiquing. At least that's how I travel - always a vintage scavenger hunt for painting props along the way!

I hope your summer has been full of wonderful adventures!
letters and papers
Noteworthy (left) and Ticket to Ride (right). Both ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze

Thanks for joining me on my art journey.

Monday, August 21, 2017

How did you get here

Sometimes you make a decision and see the impact immediately and sometimes it's gradual, you have to look back to see how it evolved. Like... how did that happen?!

Early in my oil painting days, I decided to keep trying new things - to learn more and expand experiences to further my art career. It wasn't about trying new media or techniques because I already knew that painting realism in oils was my thing. It was more about taking chances. Because it felt like saying "I wish I could do something like that" was just a cop out.

And I decided some experiences were actually possible and it was me that was holding me back. So I took workshops in interesting places - the south of France... a prison in Philadelphia - joined national arts organizations and looked for new opportunities.

Mainly, I started whistling in the dark when something came along that intrigued and made me anxious at the same time. So when an artist friend said, "you should apply to the residency at Weir Farm," I figured, why not?

Spending a month with only art as a focus sounded both idyllic and nerve-wracking. What if I run out of excuses and still can't create anything worthwhile?! But the most daunting obstacle was that residency artists are asked to have a public talk at the end of their stay. Power point presentation and talking about yourself. How uncomfortable is that, I ask you?!

artist residency at Weir Farm, artist talk at Wilton library after a month at Weir Farm

It was a challenge, but I actually found the process of gathering talking points to be interesting - and useful. When you try to explain what you do and why, you begin to understand it better yourself. Articulating it creates a clearer focus.

These slides from my presentation outline some of the aspects of composition and technique that go into my paintings. We tend to take for granted that people can see what goes into our art making, but there is more behind the scenes and honestly we don't always realize it ourselves!

essence of painting an interior, patterns of light and shadow

first steps in painting

Many experiences and challenges preceded my time at Weir Farm, including an interest in vintage objects and historic locations. That interest had led me to visit, and ultimately paint at, Seven Hearths, the home of artist George Lawrence Nelson. And the reverential experience of painting in the studio of this American Impressionist painter also influenced my decision to paint interiors of Julian Alden Weir's studio and home.

So...when I was told the National Historic Site wanted all of my Weir Farm interior paintings for their collection, I was more than thrilled. 

And when I'm asked, "how-the-heck did that happen?"... the story starts with deciding to say yes to new opportunities.

This Friday there is a new "Art at the Park Festival" at Weir Farm to celebrate the park service's anniversary and Julian's birthday. Art-lovers and art-makers are invited to participate and more information is available here.

Also, if you're interested in applying to Weir Farm's artist residency, go for it! Start now to get your project description and letters of recommendation in order because the deadline is October 10th. If you have questions about my experience there, please comment and I'll get back to you.

The fall is an important time for art shows and experiences. I hope you take a chance and try something new.

Thanks for following me on my art journey. Here's to taking chances!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Rembrandt and Capturing Carpets in Oil

Ah, I'm back in my studio (home-sweet-home) having returned from Amsterdam, Brussels and Bruges where we were immersed in the creative milieu of these medieval cities and literally walked in the footsteps of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Eyck.

First we dropped in on Rembrandt. It's impossible to explain what it feels like to stand in the home of a master artist. His studio is on the fourth floor, reached by an extremely narrow and steep, winding staircase which may be why there was no one else up there. That quiet peace added to the sanctity of the space. It actually took my breath away.

artist studio

This still life hangs above a glass case with Rembrandt's actual still life objects which were discovered in rubble beneath the house. Imagine seeing the actual objects with the painting!
still life objects

I have to admit I spent a good bit of time in Amsterdam searching for a version of an old Rembrandt-esque jug or stein. No affordable antique pottery was found, but I did get an old, pewter coffeepot with a wonderful patina - to be featured in a painting soon, I suspect.

After struggling to paint oriental carpets recently I appreciated seeing how textiles were painted by the Dutch masters. Some were very detailed and others had just a suggestion of pattern. An example is this section of Gerbrand van den Eeckhout's painting, The Wine Publisher's Guild. I'm sure the guild members are meant to be the focus... but look at that pattern. Van den Eeckhout was actually apprenticed to Rembrandt in the 1660s. I admire the detail here - fabric, barrel and copper - but then you look at Rembrandt...
segment of van den Eeckhout's Wine Publisher's Guild
... and this is poetry. Rembrandt's painting is a similar theme, called The Syndics of the Clothmaker's Guild. Ironically the job of these syndics is to judge the quality of cloth samples. Yet, the exotic fabric seems like the least important element here. It's painted very simply but still conveys the richness and texture typical of classic tapestry fabric. The vibrant color speaks volumes against the black suits and white collars.
painted tapestry
The Syndics of the Clothmaker's Guild by Rembrandt van Rijn
In this close up you can see how simply the pattern is rendered. Still, the contrast of bright color and muted shadow describes the richness of the fabric beautifully. It's more passive than van den Eeckhout's fabric but more compelling. And I know... the fabric is not supposed to be the important part of the painting, but at the moment, for me, it is.
Close up of above painting by Rembrandt
My quest to examine tapestry began with the struggle to paint oriental carpets at Weir Farm last month. The first one is Weir's living room and while I have said that being at the residency provided a "new perspective" unfortunately, my first version of this painting also had a "wrong perspective" because the right side of carpet was totally off. By inches. Fixing it meant repainting the entire rug since the angle of the edge also changed the angle of the pattern on the rug. That was not a happy realization. But it's much better now.
painting patterns, genre painting
Julian's Parlor at Weir Farm © 2017 Dorothy Lorenze
The carpet in the next painting is bit more developed which I think works because there is less of it. You may have noticed in my still lifes that I can obsess over detail (!) so it was hard to decide how much pattern to include - or more importantly, leave out. Even so, I really enjoyed rendering all the patterns on carpet and wallpaper in this painting. The bust on the table is actually Julian Alden Weir, hence the title "Weir, Waiting in the Foyer."
Multiple patterns in the carpet and wallpaper were the challenge for this painting which features the interior of the home of Julian Alden Weir at the National Historic Park in Wilton CT
Weir, Waiting in the Foyer © 2017 Dorothy Lorenze
So, after a month at Weir Farm and two weeks of traveling, the current "new perspective" is about getting back to a comfortable, productive routine in my own studio. Lots of ideas waiting to be realized. I'm anxious to get back to it although it does feel like another new start. So, wish me luck.

And one additional happy update. During the residency, I had displayed my painting East Meets West in the studio as inspiration since the Weir dining room includes lots of blue china that I hoped to paint. One rainy day a family admired the painting and, much to my surprise, contacted me later to purchase it. So I delivered East Meets West to a proper Scotsman visiting his family in CT. They were very gracious, offering tea and biscuits. And now the painting is going "home" to Scotland. Jolly good, as they say!
East Meets West © 2016 Dorothy Lorenze

Thanks for joining me on my artistic journey.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Last days of my Artist Residency

It's hard to believe my four weeks at Weir Farm are almost at an end! Still lots to do before I leave. I have seven paintings in various stages of completion. (I never quite know if it's finished, until it's signed and framed.)

As you already know, this is the home of Julian Alden Weir. He is one of "The Ten" a renowned group of 10 American painters who frequently worked and exhibited together. Many attended the École des Beaux-Arts in France, as Weir did, studying with Jean-Léon Gérôme and becoming friends with the likes of Jules Bastien-Lepage and John Singer Sargent. Not bad company!

Weir's rural home became a gathering place for artists to leave the city and paint en plein air. The artistic tradition continues through the efforts of the Weir Farm Art Center which coordinates the residency, choosing individual artists to hunker down in the cottage and studio. Their gift is uninterrupted time for artists working in a variety of genre or media.

(Well, it hasn't always been solitary for me as a few artists and friends have come by to see what's going on. And some got creative as well. I see more plein air outings in our future.)

Laura and Leslie confer and critique

I think I have had a pretty conscientious studio habit, but I hoped that being here with nothing but my own initiative and inspiration would help me learn a little more about my creative process - including recognizing obstacles. I'm still figuring it all out, but it has been a valuable, dedicated time, focused on my art process.

It's so peaceful here and one of the new habits that was easy to fall into is taking a walk each day. After wandering the natural beauty of the woods and walkways I step into the studio feeling more connected to my work. Being refreshed and relaxed makes creative effort flow more naturally. Nice!

Here is a foggy morning view from one of my walks. This is the Burlingham house, home of Cora Weir Burlingham. It's now the visitors center but still maintains charming, historic architectural details. What a way to start the day.

walk in the fog

All my completed - and nearly-completed - Weir Farm paintings will be on view this Monday during an end-of-residency Artist Talk at the Wilton Library. If you'd like to take a look, and a listen, come by at 6 pm. It will be a casual talk, until about 6:45 or 7. Or, if you have questions about the residency please comment below and I'll answer whatever I can. Anyone interested in applying should check out the website early. Although applications aren't due until October, letters of recommendation are required and those can take time to gather.

Meanwhile... here is the latest unfinished painting - the foyer of the Weir home. This one is all about patterns: wallpaper, carpets, bookcase. Why do I do this?! I always start out loving patterns... and then they make me crazy for awhile. Eventually it will be finished. Maybe by Monday's presentation. Hmmm, probably not.

Weir Farm, historic home
work in progress of interior of Weir home

Moving beyond this month's exercise in interiors, we will be spending time among Dutch artists and architecture. I predict a return to classic still life coming soon!

Thanks for coming along on m art journey! And if you are in the area, journey to Weir Farm this summer for your own enriching visit.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

About using photos... or not

My time at Weir Farm is already half over. Hard to believe. So far I have completed five interior and still life paintings and half a plein air painting. I've also been invited on some interesting tours by rangers and volunteers that add to my appreciation of the history of this site. One tour centered on love letters between Julian and Anna as a way to get to know them better. Very sweet.

Being here really does ignite the creative spirit, even though I am not able to set up my easel and paint within the historic home or studio. Working from photos is not typical for me but since I can still re-visit the locations, I don't mind. To be honest, there is "controversy" among artists about painting from photos. People tend to fall into one of two groups:
  1. those who use photos routinely and believe painting from photos is fine
  2. those for whom painting from photos is totally taboo... and maybe even an insult to the creative process
Some of us are a bit less dogmatic. Honestly, everyone has different creative goals and can forge their own path. For me, the goal is to work from life whenever possible and use photos only as a "Plan B". Like extending the life of a perishable still life when grapes are becoming raisins. Or when a National Historic Site invites you to paint on campus...but not IN the historic rooms. I had to adjust my process here. First I explored with a camera and took as many photos as I thought I might need. But I also had access to return to locations for more photos, clarification or inspiration. The Park Rangers and staff have been very accommodating.

This is my set up in the studio, with photos displayed on a large monitor -
easel, monitor, painting set-up

One advantage to using photos is that it's easier to create a two dimensional painting from a two dimensional image. Perspective and foreshortening are easier to see, as spacial relationships are flattened in 2D. And this, I believe, is one objection by artists in group #2 above. It's easier: less blood, sweat and tears.

But it's also true that paintings done from photos can look flat. Cameras can only see a small percentage of colors compared to what our eyes can see, so much of the richness is lost. I think if you've been painting from life, it's easier to realize what's missing when you have to work from photos. The best way to have that understanding is to spend time drawing and painting from life.

This pantry is pretty simple looking but it had perspective challenges. It was hard to figure out from photos because I couldn't back up far enough to see where the angles converged, but going back to the space I was able to compare which walls were truly parallel or perpendicular and make sense of it.
light in doorway, china chelves, cups and saucers, still life, oil painting
The Butler's Pantry at Weir Farm ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze
Some artists object to the use of photos on the grounds that it's not traditional, the old masters didn't rely on cameras. But I personally question that. Artists are generally creative problem solvers and I can certainly imagine Leonardo da Vinci being fascinated by a camera. In fact, given time, he probably would have invented it!

In 2001 David Hockney wrote Secret Knowledge a book about how he believed early painters used optics and lenses with the camera obscura to trace images onto canvas. You can see the BBC episodes about it here and here. It's interesting but I think the more fascinating study of master artists relying on mechanical assistance is found in the film Tim's Vermeer, available on youTube. It's an amazing demonstration of a non-artist recreating a painting using mechanical visual aids. What I think is especially worthwhile is his observation of how light is diffused over distance. It's an important concept for representational artists because it helps create depth, enhancing realism.

Photography is a helpful tool but my feeling is that it shouldn't replace drawing from life. Drawing is about training your eye to see and spending time with the subject to get to know it better. That can help in so many ways beyond rendering form well. The time spent drawing and observing helps you decide what to enhance and what to exclude, decisions that can make a better painting.

Here are some of my latest Weir Farm paintings. I took photos of this room from every angle. And although, in the end I chose this image, I used the others to get more information about where the light was coming from, and especially how light affected patterns on the wallpaper and carpet. This one is not finished yet, still need to fine tune areas, but it was a good example of how using multiple photos gave me more information.
orientla carpet, fireplace, chinese ginger jar
Julian's Parlor at Weir Farm, ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze
After all the time-consuming tediousness of the first few interiors, I needed to return to my comfort zone and do a little still life. This is a scene from Weir's studio so it was also painted from a photo. I'm sure that my time painting still life from life helped give this little painting some of its richness.

bottles, palette, colors, paints
Watercolor Pigments at Weir Farm ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze
Tomorrow I get to choose another scene to be inspired by at Weir Farm. And later this week I hope to join the rangers in their workshop about discussing artwork with the public on tours. That should be really interesting!

Thanks for sticking around through this long post. It's been a busy and very interesting journey these past few weeks!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A day in my life at Weir Farm

Getting settled at Weir Farm couldn't have been easier. The staff were welcoming and helpful and the weather cooperated so I was able to wander the grounds and take it all in.

My artistic goal, while here for the month, is primarily to paint interior scenes of the many historic spaces. But painting in situ is not allowed since this is a National Historic Park ...with government rules, etc. Totally understandable. So I'm working from photos (more on that in a future post) and since I'm a semi-neurotic over-achiever, I visited in advance of my stay to take pictures for prepping and planning.

Knowing that on the last Monday of each resident's stay, they give a talk at the Wilton Library presenting their work, I definitely wanted to have some finished paintings to show! So I actually started the painting of Mahonri Young's sculpture studio (Weir's brother-in-law) at home. It felt good to have one painting completed within a few days of arrival. People do stop by to chat and if all I had to show were the early/ugly stages it would not be encourging! That's just how it is with early stages: gangly adolescents.

interior paintings, studio space, studio interior
Mahonri's Sculpture Studio, Weir Farm ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze

The first full week of painting included some distractions. Doctor follow-ups that couldn't be rescheduled as well as interviews with two local papers. Stephanie Kim of the Wilton Villager has published her very kind comments already and you can read her article here. Meanwhile, it rained a lot and I worked in the studio for hours most days.

I'm focusimg on new habits this month and another goal is to spend time out doors walking, hiking... being. It's easy to be seduced by nature here. There are 60 acres of land with miles of hiking trails that also connect with a larger network of CT trails. I haven't ventured beyond the Weir acres but I'm proud to say, I have walked every day, barring downpours. (plus taken advantage of the open, zen-like upper floor of the cottage to exercise on rainy days.) And here's the thing I've discovered - when I get into the studio after spending 45 minutes out in the fields and woods, I feel  more connected to my work. Isn't that amazing?!!

hiking trails

In addition to the natural beauty, there are gorgeous gardens, naturalized and formal, that just happen to be blooming with peonies and iris. The thing I haven't done yet that is on my must-do list is to sketch on the grounds. But, I know I'll get to it.

My second painting is a simple scene of the butler's pantry. Well, not so simple because the perspective was difficult with so many angles of walls and cabinets. And then there was the matter of putting dishes on the shelves. But that's the kind of challenge I enjoy. It was the light in this scene that first captured my attention.

pantry, china shelves
Butler's Pantry ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze

Today I painted from 7:30 am to 8:30 pm with a nice long walk midday. A perfect and productive day. As I returned to the studio after dinner a group of painters were arriving for an evening painting class with Dmitri Wright, so when I was done I went out looking and found them dotting the landscape like fireflies. It was dusk and they were totally into it! I would never have thought of painting outdoors at that hour, but it seemed truly wonderful and I will have to try it. Another inspiration from Weir Farm!

It was nice to chat with fellow artists (this is a rather solitary experience) and on the way back "home" I passed the windows of the visitor center aglow in the twilight. This house was formerly the home of a Weir daughter and you can just imagine the family discussing plans for the next day... 100 years ago.

Good night from Weir Farm!

 Thanks for joining me on my artistic journey.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Weir Farm Artist in Residence, week 1

Dear Friends,

Please bear with me this month as I expect to write a bit more often because I have the unique honor of being Artist in Residence at Weir Farm in CT in June. That means I am spending the entire month living in a rustic cottage adjacent to a beautiful studio that is mine-all-mine for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the month of June!

There are all sorts of residencies - from commune-like gatherings of artists of varied visual media to semi-private spaces where the artists range from writers to sculptors to musicians. In these settings, often group meals and common space are provided for socializing and relaxing.

Weir Farm, in contrast, offers a solitary experience in a simple cottage with a summer-camp vibe that is steps away from a large and well lit studio. And the back wall of the studio is all windows, opening onto a deck that overlooks a woodland stream. Ahhh! The cottage is the former caretakers house, built in the 1830s. The studio was built in 2010 specifically for Weir's artists in residence and it's design reflects the original barn that had stood on the site. Very cool!

So, how did I get here? Well, Weir Farm is the only National Park Historic Site dedicated to American painting. After having painted at the studio of George Lawrence Nelson in Kent CT, the idea of creating artwork at the home of Julian Alden Weir, renowned American Impressionist, was too good to pass up so I applied.
"The Art Center's mission is to promote public awareness of the Farm's history and artistic tradition, and through its programs, facilitate contemporary artistic work on the site, fulfill educational goals, and preserve the Farm's unique environment."
Artist Residency Studio at Weir Farm
The residency program is overseen by the Weir Farm Art Center which accepts applications in October. Prospective artists must provide images typical of their artwork and a work plan for their time at Weir, as well as several letters of recommendation. Between 10 and 12 artists are chosen each year to stay up to 4 weeks. It's quite an opportunity for uninterrupted, focused art-making.

My work at Weir will center on painting interiors of the house and studios. I'm looking at this time as an opportunity to think through the challenges of creating mood and atmosphere through light in interior scenes. Not sure if I can accomplish that, but having uninterrupted time to think, examine, plan, compose and execute should bring me closer to that goal.

Today is the first day. Primarily, I've been settling in and finding my way around. I've already photographed some of the spaces that I plan to paint and I'm wrapping my head around what I hope to accomplish over all.

It's not just about the paint, but also about developing habits, to become more centered in the work and to simply be more productive with my creative time and energy. We shall see!

Thanks for coming along for this ride. I will keep you posted!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mothering Day

My exploration into the world of art probably began at about the age of 10 with a series of portfolio-like books called Art Treasures of the World by Abrams Art Books. There were 15 volumes of oversized, softcover books with individual color plates that were tipped in rather than printed on the page. Since the plates were on coated paper, the colors and reproduction quality were excellent. At 10 I may not have noticed those details, but as someone who loved to draw and "color" I remember being in awe of the beautiful, realistic images. I was amazed such detailed images could be created by hand, with paint! It sure didn't work with crayons.

These books may have been Reader's Digest selections, but I suspect a door-to-door salesman made the introduction. In those days my mom didn't drive, so door-to-door salesmen were lucky to find her: an eager customer. And I was even luckier.

Each volume featured the work of a single artist. The set focused mainly on Impressionists, but also included El Greco (whose dark elongated figures scared me) and Modigliani and Picasso (who my wise, 10 year-old self thought needed a few more drawing lessons). Favorites were Van Gogh, Degas and Toulouse Lautrec (precursor to my future graphic design interest, perhaps). I poured over these books and in later years remember surprising a Junior High art teacher by recognizing the work of Utrillo.
impressionist artist resource

I'm really not sure how much time my mother spent perusing art books. Whatever leisure time she had was after we seven kids were in bed (more about that here). But she introduced me to fine art, in my own home, and somehow that made it feel possibly possible. The books are gone and Mom's memory is feeble and it's too late to ask how important these volumes may have been to her. I can only give her credit for this initial inculcation which has stayed with me. Recently I found copies of two of the volumes in an antique store. I hold them as reminders of Mom's first gentle push toward my artistic journey.

On this Mother's Day thoughts of nurturing turn toward artists. Making artwork is risky. It's very personal and we generally aspire to something greater than we feel capable of achieving. Not to mention the fact that it's usually/eventually done in a somewhat public manner. We make personal images and say, "Look!" Scary stuff.

So it's heartwarming when artists mother one another and I'm pleased to say it happens often. Sure, there are those who anxiously guard their inside info and "tricks of the trade," but more often I'm finding artists who recognize that we are all swimming in the same water and we have the ability to help one another stay afloat with encouragement and shared experiences. We can mother each other without loosing a piece of ourselves. In fact, if you love art it's an honor to help another artist make this world a more beautiful and meaningful place. We all win.

Happy Mother's Day to all you nurturing souls!

stuffed penguin toy, penguin, stuffed puppy, dog, yellow lab, mutsy
Pup & Penguin - who nurtured Tessa & Hamo... & Clara

Thank you for joining me on my art journey.