Monday, March 1, 2021

Painting in the pandemic paralysis

When Covid isolation rules were new, we artists were fairly content with social constraints. After all, time on our own is put to good use in the studio. 

Although there was more time, progress was slower lately. Pandemic prognostications coupled with political upset were taking a toll. On the worst days inertia set in and Netflix took over (and I don't think I'm alone here!) Many amazing artists have created poignant and powerful work based on personal pain or social trials, but ... that’s not my motivation. I need to feel good to paint.

Turns out, when I’m distracted it’s difficult to focus, to distinguish details and to actually see! This was pretty disturbing because for realistic painting details are sort of important.

mandarin, orange, glossy leaves, angel wings
Mandarin Seraphim ©2020 Dorothy Lorenze

I set myself up for real frustration with my next painting of gourds, which ranged from creamy white to dusty green-grey. This composition was intended to be an exploration of subtle transitions, a challenge to accurately render delicate color and value shifts. But after days of working on it, I really couldn't hold on to the difference between a greyish green and a greenish grey, or whether the whites were warm or cool. So I gave up, set it aside and figured I would try again later. 

Ghost Gourds ©2021 Dorothy Lorenze

It still felt as though my vision was not up to snuff. Then Covid vaccines began to be available and it was such a mental relief that I felt I could see more. The gourds are still subtle but differences became easier to describe. Same objects, different perspective. Crazy.

Every painting subject has its challenges and my next painting was no exception. I knew I wanted to capture the texture of the limes realistically, to not look like a green egg or plastic ball. At the same time, I thought I could push the color in the reflections on the shiny glaze of the pitcher. And yet both needed to look like they belonged in the same painting, painted with the same hand. 

But, you know what? That didn't work. The dramatized reflections looked too abstract compared to the realism of the limes, which were more important. So, thankful for the forgiving nature of oil paint, I repainted "quieter" reflections.

Pitcher and Limes ©2021 Dorothy Lorenze

Changing course in a painting requires confidence which can be hard to come by. And impossible during a time so stressful that you don't even trust what you are seeing! Who knew a vaccine could help a painting!

I hope everyone is beginning to feel some relief as better news trickles in. This post is not meant to be whine-y, just an observation of how stress can influence normal activity. For me, everything feels a bit lighter than it did in early January. Plus, we’ve been able to schedule our vaccinations!

If you are interested in purchasing or reading more about these paintings you can see them on my website:

In other good new, some art shows are happening in person this Spring. If you are in the Newburyport area this month, I have a small painting in the Winter Show, Heirloom & Antique. Stop by and be inspired by art again.

As always, thank you for reading my newsletter and feel free to share with anyone who might be interested. 

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

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Hanging in there, and there...

Hey folks, I hope you are all doing well, hunkering down, masking up and staying focused on protecting yourself and your loved ones as the winter weather sets in for real. It seems the least we can do for our heroic, beleaguered front-line health care workers is to take care to stay healthy. So far we are OK.

If you've wondered about my social media slump in recent months, it's mainly to avoid too much negativity. And although I truly believe that all creative arts are good for the soul, lately the challenges are so great that it seems a bit trivial. 

However, my work is currently in a show that not only highlights fine art but also benefits a variety of charities in Westchester County so it feels good to mention it. For 48 years St. Matthew's has held Art Show Bedford to raise money for local charities in Westchester County. They have done so much good, supporting charities every year, that it feels good to have been part of this effort again. This year the exhibit is online and I have eight paintings included. You can see my work here and also the work of many fine artists who enjoy giving back to our communities - including my friends Leslie Carone and Laura Gould! There is also an impressive list of the 14 charities who will benefit from the proceeds of art sales.

Here are three of my eight paintings at Art Show Bedford.

flow blue china, heirloom tomato
Heirloom & Antique ©2020 Dorothy Lorenze

Flow blue china, blue cheese still life painting
Blue on Blue ©2020 Dorothy Lorenze

Red spring onions, still life, fresh produce
Baby Red Onions ©2020 Dorothy Lorenze

I am also pleased to say that two of my paintings are on exhibit at the beautiful Mark Twain Library in Redding, CT. This is always a beautiful show! It runs from Dec 5th to Dec 13th and, this year, you can see the work online as well as in person. Paintings are listed alphabetically by title and mine are Chick Please and The Regiment.

vintage diner, restaurant check, chick
Chick Please ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze

shaving brushes, vintage barber, original art
The Regiment ©2020 Dorothy Lorenze

If you're wondering about the art world in our new home state of Massachusetts, well, I have connected with several arts organizations. Of course it hasn't been so easy since more than half of the year that we've lived here has been during "the great Covid19 pandemic" (not so great, but you know what I mean). So I'm very pleased to have won awards at the Boston Guild of Artists, Newburyport Art Association and Rockport Art Association and Museum! Currently my painting Plum Regal is in the Annual National Exhibit in Rockport and it's a truly gorgeous show! And Pepper Pile is at Newburyport.

textile pattern, plums, still life
Plum Regal ©2020 Dorothy Lorenze

peppers, still life, original fine art
Pepper Pile ©2020 Dorothy Lorenze

Lastly I want to say a belated Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I feel blessed to have been able to celebrate with our small family pandemic pod in MA and look forward to seeing the rest of our crew - hopefully in the near future. It's been hard to be apart but I am grateful that we are all healthy. I also appreciate all the good wishes and support of so many art lovers and artist friends who continue to create,  making this world a more beautiful place for us all! Stay healthy, my friends!

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Painting details

Composing a painting is hard. I'm usually inspired by an actual object, but inspiration can also come from the desire to capture a particular texture, finish or light effect. And as happened here, even the simplest subject (plums) can become complicated.

This latest painting started in the produce aisle where red-purple plums were looking rather regal. In my studio, while figuring out how to highlight their glory, they sat in a spatterware pie plate. Not exactly regal, but spatter grey against glossy purple made a nice contrast. So that was the start of what was meant to be a horizontal painting starring purple plums. 

And then this happened.

plum still life, vintage tea towel
Plum Regal ©2020 Dorothy Lorenze

A simple portrait of produce became a regal throne of intricate tapestry. Well, maybe just plums on a tea towel, but certainly elevated by the rich pattern. Really, the complimentary colors of green-blue and red-purple were just perfect. So... what to do about that fabric pattern?!

A detailed drawing is almost always my starting point. For this painting I focused on the plums and the ellipse of the pie tin. Figuring I'd do a looser impression of the fabric pattern, and kind of wing it to avoid being too mechanical.

Realism is challenging, of course, and involves training your eye to see the small details that will add to the interest of the painting. It can also mean training your brain to ignore some degree of detail to maintain the poetry. So I gave myself permission to be not entirely literal with the fabric while still creating a level of realism that felt right, to me. That meant drawing the fabric to provide key shapes and elements of the pattern to be a road map for painting the pattern. 

fabric pattern

More detail than just winging it and less than photo accuracy. In the end it did not feel like a compromise, but a successful rendering of my vision. And that's a great feeling.  

I drew, but, also used photos to check my work. There are artists who work strictly from photos and those who believe that's cheating. My feeling is photos can be a tool, not the same as personal observation - which is OK when you know how photos can flatten images and effect color. I don't want to be so literal that I miss the personality of the subject. Artists have different backgrounds and different goals, and that's fine. As Karen O'Neil used to say, "There's no right or wrong. There's only what works and what doesn't". 

I drew the plums and the pie tin as accurately as possible, focusing on the ellipse of the tin and positions of the plums front/back, above/below one another. Then transferred the drawing to the painting surface. You can see an example of this process here

Things were going along ok but the pie tin wasn't quite right. So I took a photo of the painting, marked the center axis of the tin and folded it to see if it was symmetrical. The left side looked more accurate to me so I cut through the folded pieces which slightly reshaped the right side to match the left. The depth of the tin had been off slightly causing the angle to be sharper and that made the difference. You can see this on the right side of the cut printout - very hard to visually measure!

checking symmetry
checking symmetry

Checking symmetry this way helps separate what your brain knows from what your eyes see. When drawing a symmetrical object on paper you simply fold it in half, use backlight to see if the sides align. You can't do that with canvas, hence the photo. (This can also be accomplished with a tracing, but the painting was wet.)

At this point the fabric was looking more sloppy than impressionist. So I made a greyscale image of the painting to help determine how stark or subtle the contrast was in the fabric pattern. I could see that not only were the thread colors closer in value but there were variations throughout where the light hit differently. This helped to make the fabric more natural and realistic.

vintage tea towel, plums, contrast
comparing values with a greyscale image

I was still at the ugly duckling stage of this painting - a time when its easy to get frustrated or lose confidence. But on this day my audio book was ... a bit different. It was the story of David Goggins, Navy Seal, USAF Tactical Air Control and ultra athlete. Don't laugh, but I was inspired. 

Goggins came from an abusive background where he always felt like a loser. After many personal disappointments, he challenged himself, stopped making excuses, worked hard and never settled. It's a raw story and I can't exactly recommend the totality of it. However, I will say, it's hard not to do your very best when his voice is in your ear! 

Thank you for joining me on my art journey and please share these posts with those you feel might enjoy them. If this post was shared by a friend, if you like, sign up on my website to receive monthly newsletters from my art studio.