Friday, December 21, 2018

Happy Artful Holidays!

It's been a wonderfully creative year - not the least of which is because we've had two sweet grand children enter our lives this fall - can't get enough of them. Welcoming a baby is the perfect pause in our somewhat chaotic lives. They are perfect reminders that all's right with the world.

But... all that snuggling takes time, so I will not have a Christmas card painting for the first time in several years. I'm thinking it might be a New Year's painting! Stay tuned.

I am very pleased to note that although it's been a busy year with non-art needs and distractions, there have been some wonderfully rewarding opportunities on the art front.

trompe l'oeil painting, fool the eye
Noteworthy ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze
This fall my trompe l'oeil painting Noteworthy was juried into Oil Painters of America's Eastern Regional exhibit. It's my first acceptance to a show by this national organization. The exhibit is at McBride Gallery in Annapolis, a lovely gallery in a beautifully historic and artsy town. Happily, the show has been extended into January.

Earlier this fall two paintings were juried into Borderland State Park's Ames Mansion, in North Easton, MA. I enjoyed discovering this gorgeous historic venue and getting to know artist, feminist and inventor, Blanche Ames. Such a fascinating woman! She and her husband, Oakes, also happen to be grandparents of actor George Plimpton. A portrait of Oakes Ames in the dining room looks, eerily, just like grandson George. (But I digress.)

My next new art adventure will be to participate in Art Show: Bedford which has been ongoing since 1973. And it was the first art show I ever visited when we moved  to the area in the 70s. I'm very pleased to be invited. The exhibit runs from January 25 to February 3 at St. Matthews Parish House in Bedford, NY. It's always a popular event and all proceeds benefit local charities - so it's good works for good works!

Santa's Chocolate Shadow © 2017 Dorothy Lorenze

Since I haven't got a new Christmas painting to share, here are two of my favorites from past years  (which some new readers haven't yet seen). Santa's Chocolate Shadow was painted last fall and it has recently found a new home.

Christmas 1945 is an ongoing favorite of mine because it features vintage ornaments from my parent's childhood trees.

So this is what I enjoy about still life - the opportunity to explore light, color and reflection while spending time with vintage, nostalgic subjects that draw me into another time and place. Sort of a painterly, mini Downton Abbey adventure.
Christmas 1945 ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze

I do have several new paintings in the works - almost finished - and I plan to write about my painting process after the holidays, so please keep an eye out for that.

In the meantime, thank you all for your kind comments and support throughout 2018. You helped to make a busy year even more rewarding. I hope you are enjoying time with family and friends in the coming days, reminiscing about all the goodness in your life. I look forward to entering 2019 with renewed creative energy and sincere wishes for joy and peace in this crazy world.

Monday, November 19, 2018

When it's hard to feel thankful

At this time of giving thanks I want to take a moment to thank the art lovers who feed the energy and creativity of artists with your support and kind comments. Whether you have purchased artwork, visited an exhibit or shared your feelings on social media please know that you play an important role in our continued creative effort. Sure, we're artists and we're gonna make art, but knowing our work strikes a chord is truly validating and keeps us going. And as I've said before, the world could use more beauty.

We are in California for Thanksgiving this year where the raging fires are all too real. Smoke permeates the air for hundreds of miles and there is a heaviness in both the air and in our hearts as we experience this devastating tragedy. It feels kind of trivial to focus on gratitude for the good things in my life at such a time, but I think - I hope - that appreciation is what gets us through such difficulties. I haven't quite decided how to help the victims of the fire but in appreciation of the generous support that I experience as an artist, I know that I will.

So, again, thank you for inspiring me! 

As far as my artwork goes, a selection of my paintings will be hanging at Who's Cooking in Croton Falls for one more week. Below are a few of the paintings on exhibit through November 26 (closed on Sundays).

original oil painting, representational art
Five Little Onions Sitting on a Bench ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze

original oil painting, classical still life
At the Opera © 2017 Dorothy Lorenze

original oil painting, classical interior, representational painting
Come In. Peace ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze

And just for fun - ho, ho, ho - a vintage Santa figure and his chocolate shadow. 
vintage Santa figure, chocolate  Santa Claus, representational art
Santa's Chocolate Shadow ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze

I will also have a few paintings at the annual Mark Twain Library benefit art show in Redding, CT from November 30 - December 9th. It's a short run, but worth a visit. The show is well-curated and well-displayed, the library itself is lovely and the folks involved are some of the most appreciative art patrons around. You might even find a unique work of art for special gift giving!

Meanwhile, the next few days will be focused on meal planning and preparing for guests. As with making art, the work of preparation is important to a successful outcome, but the spirit of what's behind the effort is what brings the work to life. So, whatever your Thanksgiving dinner plans may be, I hope you are also grateful for the goodness in your life and appreciative of all those whose small gestures of kindness feed your soul. Because gratitude is a happiness multiplier!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and special thanks for joining me on my art-filled journey.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Trick or Treat, celebrating challenges

It's that spooky time of year where we enjoy putting on costumes and playing different roles...just a little. It's probably all about the candy, but maybe it's also about adding excitement to the ordinary.

It's all about balance: boring and brilliant, comforting and challenging, familiar and fantasy. We all have our own definition of what constitutes a challenge as well as what qualifies as basic contentment. (I'm thinking about painting here!)

Painting - we hope - brings restorative zen moments, but it also causes frustration and consternation. When we have trouble getting started its the frustration that looms large! Really, the most satisfying paintings will frustrate and restore. Ya gotta eat the vegetables before you can enjoy dessert.

Recently our painting group was discussing what holds us back, the challenges of getting started and how to establish productive routines. Of course it's different for everyone - we all have other commitments: work, family, etc. Fear of frustration and failure is probably the biggest deterent, until we remember that time spent painting can be the wonderful dessert of life.

What's really cool is when painting becomes your vegetables, your sustenance. That's when you know you're hooked. And of course for me, it's often literally... vegetables.

fall harvest, original oil painting, painted vegetables
Heirloom and Hubbard ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze, 6x8"

We're coming into the busy holiday season with all its added responsibilities as well as moments of wonder. My advice is to take it all in, relax and enjoy the cookies... but eat your vegetables to keep you going. It may be harder to find the time, but it's always good for you.

If you're an art enthusiast rather than an art maker, this is a great time to exercise your creativity by finding unique gifts at holiday craft shows and art exhibits. Discovering the perfect piece for someone's life and personality is an exciting adventure. Ridgefield Guild of Artists and  Putnam Arts Council both offer holiday gift fantasy worlds in November and December where you can find unique artistic offerings.

Closer to home, my paintings will be at Who's Cooking in Croton Falls through November 26th, including the veggies, Heirloom and Hubbard, above.

The added bonus about stopping by Who's Cooking is being tempted to treat yourself to a great lunch, bring home a gourmet meal for your family or plan a catered holiday event with Russell, whose culinary taste is exquisite. No stress and delicious - the best way to eat your vegetables and enjoy dessert!

Below are some of my paintings on exhibit there. Except the interior with the red chair (second from right) which, I'm thrilled to say, is going to a new home!
original oils exhibit, Croton Falls, NY, still life, interior paintings, fine art
There are still lifes, interiors and holiday paintings, as well as some sweet little florals on display.

original art, still life with fruit
Add caption
Christmas paintings, original oilpainting show, Croton Falls, NY, realism in art, fine art exhibit
Vintage Sleigh Bells (l) and Santa's Chocolate Shadow (that one cracks me up!)

This month I also delivered a painting to the Oil Painters of America's Eastern Regional show in Annapolis, MD. It was my first acceptance into a show by this prestigious organization and I'm thrilled to be included. The exhibit is at the McBride Gallery right on Main St. and the folks there couldn't have been nicer. The show runs through November 28th, so if you happen to be in the area... or need a road trip to a sweet historic town, stop by. I know you will enjoy it!
McBride Gallery, Annapolis, MD site of OPA's Eastern Regional Exhibit

I hope you have a Happy Halloween with lots of little, smiling faces delighting in the festivities!

WELCOME to all the new readers of my newsletter! If you'd like to look back on earlier posts you can go here to search for subjects, or just browse.

My warmest thanks to all for joining me on my artistic journey!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

New art news

Hey Friends,

Just a quick note to tell you about a few recent and upcoming art events. In northern Westchester, my paintings will be at North Salem's Ruth Keeler Library during September. If there is something you've been wanting to see up-close-and-personal come check it out. The library is on Route 116 along the beautiful Titicus Reservoir. (And if you time it right you can stop by Purdy's Farmer & Fish for a glass of wine on their porch.) The show will be up through September 27.

gargoyles, original oil painting, Ruth Keeler Library art show

I also have paintings at the Blanche Ames Mansion National Juried Art Exhibit in North Easton, MA. The reception is September 22, from 7-10pm and all are welcome. This exhibit is held in the mansion of artist, inventor and women's suffragist, Blanche Ames, at her historic home in Borderland State Park. Ames designed the estate herself and it's beautifully furnished as it was when the the family lived there in the 1900s. I'm honored that two of my paintings were juried into this national exhibit which runs from Sept. 18 to October 6.

Closer to home, three paintings are at the Kent Art Association Gallery in the quaint town of Kent, CT. And I'm pleased to say my interior, Come in. Peace, was awarded Best Oil Painting! This show will be up through Columbus Day, October 8th.

original oil painting, interior, entryway, peaceful room
Come in. Peace ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze
I've had a little trouble getting my website updated lately so if there is something you are interested in, please email me and I'll get back to you asap. I'm so grateful to my wonderful collectors who warm my heart with their enthusiasm and support. In fact several of recent pieces were purchased while the paint is still wet! These paintings are going to their new homes soon - once they are dry, varnished and framed!

still life
Here's Lookin' at You ©2018 DorothyLorenze
vegetable still life, oil painting
Sprouted Turnip ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze
And finally, I'd like to let you know about a landscape show for another local artist, Maggie Ryan, at the Mahopac Library. If you're interested in landscapes, be sure to check out Maggie's lovely oils and pastels this September during library hours.

Thanks for following me on my art journey!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

How important is a personal style in art?

I think on some level we all want to be unique. Even when we're admiring and aspiring to be as accomplished as someone else, we still want to leave our own mark and have a personal style. At least I hope so.

But personal style can be tough to nail down. Painterly or precise, which way does the needle point? Seems like the thing we are most passionate about should come through without having to really force the issue. When I paint still life that "thing" is realism, hopefully with a touch of a poetry... or maybe humor. It used to trouble me that my interior paintings were less realistic ...and not at all humorous! Does that mean I have no style?!

Vintage camera, glass of bourbon, classic movie dialogue
(SOLD) Here's Looking at You ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze

Turns out what interests me in a still life is different from what interests me in an interior scene. For still life it's about defining and comparing objects and textures in a way that differentiates them or describes their inter-relationship. Interiors are more about atmosphere and mood. Sure, there are textural differences to convey and light and shadow to describe, but in the end it's about communicating the essence of a place, a time of day or even an era. There's a difference in focus more than a difference in style.

backlit interior, window light, Victorian house
Back to the Light, San Francisco ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze, 12 x 16"

I'd been thinking about this a lot lately having just completed this historic Victorian house interior, followed by the very detailed still life of a vintage camera, above. Both paintings were challenging in different ways - which made me realize that difference was a matter of focus, not style. And suddenly it felt just fine. What I don't want to do is to follow the trends of others that don't connect with me.

Coincidentally, I listened to an Oprah Winfrey Master Class podcast recently. These aren't woo woo motivational speeches, but interviews with varied and accomplished artists who also happen to be amazingly humble. The talk with Alicia Keys was especially meaningful at the moment. I was interested in the contrasts within her personality: confident and humble. Even early in her career, she was able to insist on following her own style when record executives knew they could make her a star as a pop artist. But she knew she had a different passion to follow.

Alicia cautioned to avoid molding to the mainstream. "We are all walking a journey that is constantly evolving before us. Plan, but be open to life." Be open to life. Now, that's a plan for enrichment!

In contrast, she also had had a habit of downplaying her hopes as a kind hedge against failure. Then her writing partner challenged her use of self-deprecating, negative phrases like, "with my luck..." or, "that could never happen..."  He said if that's what you say, that's how it will be and she realized "the things we say build our road - words have power." So she banned words like "if" and "probably". Alicia Keys is determined and confident. And she also works very hard!

So how does this relate to painting? I think it's important to determine the direction you want to go and really work toward that thing. Stay focused on what feeds your soul without getting distracted by trends that work for others. There is nothing wrong with thinking of artwork as work! The analogy to music is apt - no one expects to pick up a violin and be able to play. It takes work, it's not all about inspiration. (But if you're looking for inspiration try listening to Master Class or Your Creative Push podcasts.)

And finally, Alicia says it's important to stay humble because "that's the only way to continue to become your best. You have to keep an eye on where you've been to appreciate where you are now."

How true. Improving means setting new goals and taking on new challenges. Sometimes you just have to paint a camera with concentric circular lens details! And then go back and look at early attempts at ellipses and circles - hopefully it will be an enlightening comparison!

On the subject of "being open to life" I happened to see a national call for artists to exhibit at the Blanche Ames Mansion in North Easton, MA just one day before the submission deadline and I decided to give it a try. Both the above interior and my trompe l'oeil Noteworthy were accepted! This is my second time exhibiting in a National Historic Site and I'm thrilled.

And now I'm getting to know Blanche Ames: artist, inventor and suffragette! (More on Blanche to come, I'm sure.) And if you're in the area of North Easton, MA stop by. The opening reception is September 22nd.

Below is my painting Noteworthy which will also be in the exhibit.

And last but not least, you can see my work at Ruth Keeler Library in North Salem, NY during the month of September. Stop by and see some of my newer small works.

trompe l'oeil painting, papers, vintage glasses, notebook, paper ephemera
Noteworthy ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze, 16 x 20"

I hope your summer has been full of great adventures and, as always, thank you for joining me on my artistic journey!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Picking up spice from my palette

Multi-colored tomatoes from the farmers market at Muscoot were a fitting subject for my first painting of the summer. Colorful and juicy, they whet my appetite as I worked. So maybe that explains why I started to think of my palette as a... spice drawer.

This one was meant to be a return to "alla prima" which essentially means all at once, painting wet into wet. For me, it meant jumping in with brush and paint, not taking the time for a preparatory drawing and transferring it to canvas. But truthfully, it was not "at one go." It took me three days. 

For me, alla prima can feel scary - there's no time spent observing the subject while drawing. I tend to rely on the structure of a refined drawing as a road map for what goes where.

    My worry was missing the classical technique that I rely on.
    My hope was finding a fresher finish for these bright, luscious tomatoes.

Below is a sphere painting that was done as a classical exercise in creating form with light and shadow. A good practice, and it clearly applies to tomatoes!

Correctly articulating how light interacts with an object is what makes it believable as an object in space. Color and texture is what differentiates objects - these are tomatoes not apples.

I found myself dipping into piles of paint thinking, "too dull, it needs a bit more spice." Experimenting like we do in cooking. But you can only ad lib a recipe if you have some experience and know the benefits of cumin or cayenne.

In studying color we talked about saturation (vibrancy) and how to soften (neutralize) a color. Sorting through which reds, for example, were warmer or cooler, vibrant or dull. All of that was in my repertoire as I dipped my brush, finding ways to match the reds of different tomatoes.

Some artists soften the vibrancy of a color by adding it's compliment, like purple to tone down yellow, but I was taught to look for the closest color on the color wheel, moving in the direction needed. So, maybe neutralize cadmium red with some yellow ochre. Nothing dramatic, it's the beauty of subtlety. Just like cooking, this process draws on prior knowledge. When is it best to sweeten with sugar or honey or molasses.

In the end the tomatoes look pretty fresh, I think. And it was slowing down just enough to observe and use classical techniques that got me there. That, and studying with Todd Casey and many hours at the easel!

alla prima, tomatoes, oil painting
Fresh off the easel (no name yet), 6x8 ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze

There's a two-day workshop coming up with Todd. If you'd like to learn this approach to painting check in with Todd (

Details are -
  • July 21 & 22
  • 10am to 4pm (30 min break for lunch)
  • $250 for two days
Topic covered include -
  • Proper Lighting
  • Constructing Form
  • Light & Shadow
  • Transferring a Drawing
  • Value & Color
  • Edges
  • Working a narrative into your painting
It's such an enjoyable and informative artistic experience.

Meanwhile, Happy Summer and thanks for joining me on my art journey.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Gathered Realism at Muscoot Farm Manor House Gallery

Hi Friends,

This is a quick note to remind folks that our group art exhibit Gathered Realism begins TODAY at the Muscoot Farm Manor House Gallery.

This exhibition is a collection of realistic artwork by artists who have all studied classical methods of painting with Todd Casey. The goal in painting Realism is making paintings that realistically represent identifiable objects from life. So... painting stuff that actually looks like stuff!

Come by to see how our artists have interpreted their artistic interest in Realism. Each artist's personal touch adds a poetic individualism to their work, rather than creating hyper-realistic copies.

Subjects range from classical still life compositions to floral, landscape and portraiture. There's even a Death Star! (which can happen when you master painting spheres)

My paintings below were actually exercises in painting objects with a narrow range of chroma, in preparation for a white-on-white cast drawing (the one I seem to talk about more than work on).

1950s pottery, lamb planter, ceramic chick
Pottery Barn...Yard, ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze
sarcasm, gargoyles, oil painting
Seriously, I Can't Even, ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze
We all have an appreciation for the classical atelier method and would love to chat about it with you so come on by!

Lastly, we've been invited to open early on Sundays to coincide with the Farmer's Market shoppers. But, if you plan to come early on Sunday morning please email me to make sure we have been able to cover those hours. I will definitely be there at 10 tomorrow June 3.

Hope to see you!

Monday, May 21, 2018

New Paintings, new experiences

They say it's spring. And I guess we can tell by the torrents of rain, but other than that, signs of spring have been disappointing. Take heart: the real proof of spring is the art shows and fairs that are beginning to pop up.

I'm very pleased to have several paintings in recent and upcoming exhibits. My cheeky painting Chick Please was in the Salmagundi Club's Spring show in April & May.

vintage coffee pot, diner check
Chick Please ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze

Ticket to Ride was juried into the Allied Artists of America associates online exhibit. This painting, I'm happy, to say was purchased in the fall, so an online exhibit was a good way to show it. The entire exhibit can be seen here.
Ticket to Ride ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze

I've been playing with gargoyles lately and this new painting, A Congress of Characters, will be in the Hudson Valley Artists Association exhibit at the Lyme Art Center this June. It's only the second time I've had work accepted by this prestigious group (they seem to like my quirkier subjects). I'm looking forward to re-visiting beautiful Old Lyme.
gargoyle statues
A Congress of Characters ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze

Two paintings are on exhibit at Ridgefield Guild of Artists through June 24th: a small still life At the Opera and my classic trompe l'oeil painting Noteworthy. You can read more about this painting and trompe l'oeil in an earlier blog post.
trompe loeil, still life with notes, vintage glasses
Notreworthy ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze
At the Opera ©2015

The most exciting and unusual place my work is hanging is in the historic home of artist Julian Alden Weir in Wilton, CT. Last May, as Artist in Residence, I painted six interior scenes of the artist's home. (read more about that here) After my residency, Weir Farm purchased all six paintings and I was thrilled to learn that they are now on display in Weir's house at this National Historic Site. 

I love that wild blue William Morris-esque wallpaper and one of my paintings is the view from that bedroom into the hall with a bust of Weir backlit in the window. The painting is now hanging over the bed and if you stand at the foot of the bed in front of the painting and look left, you see the same view. Very cool. 

Below left is the view from the bedroom. Center is the bedroom where my work is hanging and hanging over the bed is the view at left. On the right is my painting of that hallway view.

At right - Weir, Waiting in the Foyer ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze
Weir farm is a wonderful place to visit for nature and artistic inspiration. And now you can take a peak at my artwork when you tour the house (let me know what you hear, because I've never been part of a historic house tour before!!!)

And lastly... I'm pleased to announce a group exhibit that I'm helping to organize at Muscoot Farm this June featuring representational paintings by students of Todd Casey. All are studying traditional methods of painting to create realistic and poetic images of objects from life. The exhibit is open on weekends and I hope you will stop by during June to see what we are all up to.

Thank you for joining me on my artistic journey. Hope to see you at Muscoot!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Working through some classical exercises

I was born a few hundred years too late, or about 40 years too soon, because the classical art training I coveted wasn't available - or accessible to me, at any rate - in my college years. So I've set myself the task of working through some of the elements that might have been part of a more classical, fine art education.

This artful bucket-list includes painting genres that feel essential to an old world, fine art background. The most recent challenge pulled from the bucket was a vanitas painting. Vanitas paintings have to do with the transience of life. They are as old as Rembrandt and were very popular in the Netherlands in the 1700s. This one is by Karel van der Pluym, a student of Rembrandt's and it seems to fit his penchant for imbuing mystery and moodiness into his subjects.

by Karel van der Pluym, a student of Rembrandt
Vanitas paintings are not cheerful. Mortality is implied with symbolism galore - from skulls to snuffed candles - with a side helping of guilt-inducing luxury or sinful, secular pleasures. Fun times!

Still, I've felt compelled to tackle this genre. But vanitas motifs are almost exclusively male which didn't excite me and I didn't have a skull to paint (that's OK because they're super creepy tucked in a dark corner of the studio). So it was fortuitous - and a tad freaky - to find an old, peeling, babydoll's head to stand in for a skull. Thus, my "vanitas maternitas" was underway.

What was meant to be a generically female-themed vanitas became more personal as many of the objects either belonged to my mother or reminded me of her personal items from years past. Gloves, compact, pearls, playing cards - all brought this painting very close to home.

This piece was emotionally wrenching and took far longer to paint than any other. After the composition was underway, my mother's health began to fail and the theme of mortality was all too real. Eventually the composition became a personal touchstone to commemorate motherhood, as it included a photo of my mother before she married and me as the baby in the highchair. On the dice the numbers 5 and 2 represent my mother's five girls and two boys. (Coincidentally, the "5" is in shadow and the "2" in light - just a fact, no judgement). The book under the doll head is, I swear, a vintage Encyclopedia of Mother's Advice, chosen for size and color before noticing the title!

I don't know if this painting will resonate with anyone other than me. And it doesn't really matter. What started as a classical challenge became something of a soul searching journey. It sat for months, unfinished, in the studio after my mother died. I hoped, eventually it would feel right to work on it again and I'm glad I got to that point. When I look at it now, sometimes I sigh, sometimes I'm sort of proud and sometimes I just feel at peace.

vanitas still life, pearls, pocketwatch, queen of hearts painting, vintage gloves
Vanitas Maternitas ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze
"Painting is silent poetry and poetry is painting that speaks." 
- Plutarch

The next art bucket challenge is a cast drawing. My subject is the head of a bearded old man, purported to be Saint Andrew. Like all good challenges, it's kicking my butt. But I WILL get it done. More on that in a future newsletter.

Peace to you all, my friends.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Violet Oakley and Inspiration or Imitation

In honor of women’s history month I'd like to "introduce" Violet Oakley who I rediscovered at the Woodmere Museum’s exhibit "A Grand Vision: Violet Oakley and the American Renaissance” this fall. Oakley was an artist working during the Golden Age of Illustration when so many beautiful posters and children’s books were published. I've always admired these books, from Mother Goose to Last of the Mohicans. But I wasn’t aware of the professionalism and scale of Violet Oakley's illustration. This exhibit focused on her grand murals including the studies and research that went into creating them.

Along with fellow artists Elizabeth Shippen Green and Jessie Wilcox Smith, Oakley had studied with renowned illustrator Howard Pyle (who also taught N.C. Wyeth). Pyle admired the talent and accomplishments of the women. That’s great. But, he referred to them as the Red Rose Girls - and that name sort of set the hairs up on the back of my neck! Turns out it wasn't as sexist as it sounds, the name came from the Red Rose Inn where the three women lived. (Were there any Red Rose Boys? No, certainly not.)

Oakley also studied with Cecelia Beaux, one of America's earliest professional female artists. While she admired and was influenced by the style of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood painters, she developed her own themes of peace, equality and justice.
The Pre-Raphaelite influence is evident in Oakley's women.

Violet had her work cut out for her. Not only was she a woman working as a professional artist in a man's world, but, due to her father's disability she was the sole support for her family at an early age. Fortunately illustration was at its peak and not yet suffering the stigma of "mere commercialism" that denigrated this art form in later years.
Painted for the Pennsylvania Senate Chamber.

Oakley's creative ability and professionalism led her to seek large commissions. She was the first woman chosen to execute grand murals for civic buildings, including the Pennsylvania’s Governor’s Reception Room which she painted at age 28. Her large, historical allegories are on the scale of Sargent’s murals in the Boston Public Library and Sorolla’s paintings at the Hispanic Society in New York. Moreover, when she was asked to step in to finish an important state project upon the death of artist Edwin August Abbey, she demanded - and got! - equal pay for her work. Unheard of then, and rare even now.

Whatever the subject, she found a way to render her passion for humanity, equality and peace into the scene. At the end of World War I Oakley became interested in the League of Nations and took it upon herself to document these peacemakers by making sensitive portraits of the delegates, many of which were on exhibit at Woodmere.

Drawings of UN delegates reflect Oakley's interest in peace

Oakley did a lot of research and spent a great deal of time setting up varied compositions. The exhibit showed multiple iterations of some compositions - an interesting insight into her process. While mastering the power and majesty of historical allegories with such themes as Peace and Unity, Love and Wisdom, and Divine Law, Oakley also sensitively portrayed essential human attributes of tender care between individuals, especially mother and child, as in these paintings. Life, full circle. 
Part of Oakley's Youth in Art series for a private residence

The Pearls, 1911
So, how will Oakley's paintings influence me. First, I love the style of her compositions, from the art nouveau-like figures in their theatrical poses to her patterned borders reminiscent of illustrated storybooks. And her sensitive, elegant lines are breathtaking. There’s a geometry to her murals and stained glass that adds strength and character to grand history paintings. But I’m not a figurative painter so I won't be emulating her style in a literal way. Inspiration is not imitation.

My inspiration might be to pay homage to the manner in which she stages people creating sensitive interaction. Oakley’s subjects were often renowned figures - and mine are often pottery and vegetables! But still, I hope to capture that essence just a little. Plus, observing the hierarchy of color and value in her compositions is a reminder to use those elements to move the viewer's eye through the painting to grasp the full story.

It's a good idea to figure out what it is about a particular artist that inspires and then perhaps add a touch of that aspect within the scope of your own work. Otherwise you run the risk of being a shallow version of the artist you admire. We all have our own voice. Be inspired. Don't imitate.

In addition to the work itself, I admire Violet Oakley for her conscientious commitment to being a professional artist. She made no excuses and had every expectation that she would be treated as an equal. She did a tremendous amount of research and preparation for every project she undertook – all of which added to the emotional impact of her paintings. There are no shortcuts for master work!
Oakley's study for Youth and Art with grid overlay for transfer
Since this is National Women’s History month, it’s important to note the barriers that Violet Oakley transcended. News about her acquiring the important Pennsylvania civic commissions headlined the fact that “a woman” got the job (her name was only mentioned in the subtext). There was surprise – and doubt – that a woman would have the strength of body or mind to execute a series of large, important historic murals. Not only did she execute these massive murals onsite, on scaffolding, she did it in a long dress!

In interviews about this accomplishment Oakley said she got the work not because she was a woman, but because she could do it. It was pointed out that there is no “masculine mind” any more than there is a masculine liver.

Violet Oakley was clear on her ability as an artist and her rights as a human being. She stayed focused on what she aspired to achieve and did the work necessary to fulfill her dreams. That is what inspired me most about this incredible artist. No excuses. Just get it done. Not quite as easy as it sounds.

You can read more about Violet Oakley on the Woodmere Museum exhibit page.

Thanks for joining me on my artistic journey.

Just for fun... here's some of my research for this post -

Monday, January 8, 2018

Goals and resolutions

Hard to believe we're a week into the New Year already. Did you make any resolutions? I guess most have to do with health and happiness. Super good goals, hard to quantify. What about art goals? If you're an artist, your art career needs to be healthy to make you happy. And if you're a collector...  find art that makes you smile!

Some of my past goals have included tackling new subjects, showing in new venues, joining new arts organizations, attending workshops, tracking of artwork and sales better and painting more! Generally, focusing on becoming more professional. This year I'm thinking of doing a related series of paintings, but I haven't quite figured out what the theme will be.

I've already accomplished one goal (more of a to-do list item) - reorganizing my studio, with Todd Casey in preparation for his workshop. Amazingly, it really didn't take that long. Funny how true that is for many projects I procrastinate about. My studio  looks so much bigger, so open! Such a worthwhile effort.

If you're into making art goals, an important one is to set up and maintain a website. This was reiterated time and again in marketing sessions at the Figurative Art Convention this fall. When someone has seen your work and been intrigued by your style or subject matter, your website gives them an opportunity to check out new pieces, peruse your body of work, become familiar with individual paintings and get to know you better as an artist. Here's the artwork page on my website as an example.
artwork website, painting website

Setting up a website is not as daunting as it might seem. I'm no expert and don't even know the terminology well enough to explain it all, but I encourage you learn and get your work online. There are many website hosts that are reasonably priced and easy to maintain and edit yourself: Wix, GoDaddy and Network Solutions are three that I've tried. I started with Network Solutions but left because of problems with features I specifically wanted. So I moved to GoDaddy, which is where my website is now. Their customer service has been very helpful whenever I needed them. Wix is another host that I used for an organization I'm in. It has nice design options and was easy to work on.

Ease of editing is not just a stress reducer, it's a money saver. You need to be able to update your website yourself in a timely and accurate manner - and not have to pay someone to do it. You don't have to be tech savvy to use Wix or GoDaddy. Honestly. I'm certainly not! Do some research, make some calls, ask a lot of questions and get started.

And here's why. In the last few weeks several paintings were purchased from my website after buyers had seen them elsewhere. They didn't make the purchase at the time, but kept thinking about it, revisited the work online, then decided to make it their own. With an online presence folks interested in your work have another opportunity to fall in love with it. 

The other reason to have your own art website is that it's what professional artists do. Even if you show in a gallery, buyers expect you will have a website. They will stand in front of a piece they like and google your website to see what else they might love. And galleries want you to have that breadth of exposure and professionalism. Of course you must always abide by your gallery agreement in terms of pricing and sales. It's only fair since they brought your work to the collector's attention.

These are the paintings that were recently purchased from my website. In each case the buyer had seen the work somewhere previously, but was not yet ready to buy. Also, my website has additional information, like what the painting means to me or how the composition evolved. Collectors like to know the story behind a painting.
Ticket to Ride ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze
Gentleman Caller ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze
Taking Measure, Following Threads ©2016 Dorothy Lorenze
If Wishes Were Horses ©2017 DLorenze
Tête à Tête à Tootsies ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze
Meanwhile, while researching the technical aspects of hosting, etc., start gathering the content needed: a brief bio, resumé with exhibitions and awards, education, affiliations, organizations as well as any interesting news, publications or press. You will also need decent photos of your work: no frames and no glare. It does sound like a lot, but most of it is material you may have gathered for shows already. 

The thing we really don't want to tackle is the technical part. It may be unfamiliar territory, but believe me, you have done more difficult things in your life! I was at the Apple store in a workshop for new users with a woman who was grappling with iphotos. She was clearly unhappy and feeling incapable. Then the tech guru said, "don't worry, it's not like it's a heart & lung machine" and she sat up and said, "Oh! I can do that!" She was an operating room nurse and he had unwittingly put it in perspective for her. Basically, if you've learned to drive a car, you can handle a website. 

Get to it! And in the words of Dr. Suess, "Oh the places you'll go!"

Have a beautiful and creative 2018! 

Thanks for joining me on my art journey.