I found myself just wanting to get out and sketch around town. So I drove about wondering what would catch my attention. The last downtown farmer’s market for the season was wrapping up, kids were eagerly waiting their turn on the Nut Tree train at the NT Plaza and a local resident was tending her garden. The sun was shining. Just a perfect day all the way around.
Archive for October, 2009
14 x 11″, soft pastel over watercolor wash on Ampersand panel
© 2009 Marianne Post
This week found me meandering around the hills and valleys close to home. This is the perfect time to capture the glorious color that is beginning to appear in local vineyards. It is also the time vintners call the fall crush, the harvesting of the grapes. Some fields are ablaze with autumnal red and golden colors, others are hanging onto the greens of summer. In short order the vines will be bare. But for now, the views reinforce my love affair with fall. Definitely had to paint this.
Summer of 1979 lingered into early fall that year. The first major collection of artifacts from the tomb of King Tutankhamun came to San Francisco. I happened to be one of 1.4 million people who stood in line to see them.
The Golden Age of the Pharoahs almost didn’t make it to the city that year. San Francisco wasn’t on the original North American tour schedule. But thanks to a delegation of city officials and philanthropic citizens, San Franciscan’s got a taste of what a museum experience should be. Organizers and curators of the event stopped at nothing to make the exhibit very special. Ironically, of all the scheduled venues on the tour, attendance at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park garnered the largest crowd.
This past Tuesday I had another chance to stand in front of artifacts dating from 1300 BC. The treasures of King Tut are once again luring thousands to the recently renovated de Young. Creepy in some ways, astonishing in so many others, seeing treasures made of gold, carvings of stone and glass, jewelry, furniture and burial paraphernalia that was crafted over 3000 years ago is still a treat the second time around.
While the museum experience in ’79 changed the way San Fransicans would forever visit a museum again, this new exhibit pulls out all the stops. Having a somewhat Disney-like Indian Jones feel, visitors are ushered by small lots through heavy double wooden doors to a dark and cool antechamber. A ninety-second video introduction welcomes you to the Valley of the Kings. You then snake your way around dimly lit pillars into further chambers that hold treasures of King Tut’s ancestors. Continuing deep into the bowels of the exhibit hall you eventually come to a vast tomb-like room filled with the artifacts that accompanied King Tut in the afterlife.
In the very last chamber, new scientific evidence surrounding the unexpected death of the nineteen year old king is revealed. Ironically King Tut was not even buried in his own tomb, but the tomb of his advisor. The exhibit is full of history, art, wonder and mystery. 3000 years is a longtime, but what a difference 30 years can still make. See the exhibit if you can.
Not Just Pomegranates, pastel on Pastelbord, 11 x 14″
© 2009 Marianne Post
Fall is definitely in the air. The days are shorter, the leaves are falling, there are hints of color in the trees, and I can smell wood burning fires in the air. I love it! Crisp apples bulge over their bins at the produce stand, there are squashes I have never heard of, and the corn stalk mazes a”maze” me.
I came across a painting I did four, maybe five years ago when I was studying at the School of Light and Color. A bowl of pomegranates. Yep, It’s a fall thing and I love them! And maybe that’s why I have hung onto it. I enjoy standing over the kitchen sink devouring the seeds and juice of this awkward fruit. I once heard that the real way to enjoy it is to roll it around on a counter to release the juices, puncture a hole in the flesh, stick in a straw and suck out the nectar. On the web there are more ways to tackle this challenging fruit.
It not only speaks of a season I love, but the impact that studying under the tutelage of Susan Sarback had on my career as an artist. I love the colors she taught me to see. Each orb, at first glance, looked the same. Further study revealed the difference in their chroma, values and hue. I learned to see a plain wooden bowl reveal its beauty.
This is definitely not a landscape but a “tablescape” that speaks to me in more ways than one. I sometimes revisit paintings I have done and decide whether to “repurpose” the substrate and paint over them. Not every painting is a keeper. This was a studio study piece. It didn’t even have a title until just now. It is not a great piece of art and its not going anywhere. But it holds a special meaning for me because it reminds me of where I have been, what I have learned, and where I am now, fall ’09. Sometimes the simple things are more complex than we think. Maybe that’s why they deserve our attention.
Last week I had tentative arrangements to paint with a friend. Life happens and plans can change. So I packed my gear and headed out on my own to see what caught my eye. Instead of heading to the lakes, or rivers I decided to visit nearby Suisun City. Ever since I was in Oregon last month I have been itchy to paint harbor life.
The sleek sailboats, cruisers and mini yachts were all there but the piers were quiet and not a soul was to be found. So I took some time and wandered through the town, a place I really hadn’t visited for quite awhile. Redevelopment is obviously very big here. The charming remnants of what I remembered as Suisun are now shoulder to shoulder with towering retail and commercial spaces. Trendy restaurants and R&B lounges promise to open soon.
Fortunately, for the most part, the city appears to have a plan to integrate new construction with old town charm. New deck strewn dwellings are above retail spaces, waterfront homes overlook the harbor parkway, new residential developments remind one of Victorian neighborhoods but with 21st century amenities.
So instead of setting up and painting the harbor, I strolled around town with my sketchbook and some handy half pans of watercolor. I craved “old town” and wasn’t disappointed.
Every corner had a subject to be captured. The morning flew by. I had lunch under an umbrella on the back deck of “Bab’s.” The marina sparkled like an old lady with a glint in her eye. Tables filled up quickly. Lots of locals, and yes construction crews, too.
River Light, work in progress, pastel on Pastelmat
In the late 1880’s Van Gogh disembarked the train from the north of France in the town of Arles. Why he chose to get off and live in Arles is a matter for discussion. It wasn’t an especially picturesque place. Some historians say it reminded him of the flatlands of his home in the Netherlands. But from the letters he wrote to his brother, Theo, we do know he headed to the south of France to capture the light. He was in search of the “colors of the prism, that were “veiled in the mists of the north.”
River Light is my latest work in progress and an attempt to capture the evening glow on the river. The days are shorter now and the light disappears very quickly, so I am scrambling. The weather has changed and so this will have to either wait for another day or I can “go with the flow” in the studio.
Last week I started a new session of weekly pastel classes. Some of my students are returning after a summer break. Others are brand new to the medium. It is always a challenge to ensure that each student gets what they need. Some are seasoned pastelists, interested in trying new techniques and finding their own voice. And the newbies still cringe at the thought of breaking their perfect colorful pastel sticks in half.
The one activity that I ALWAYS have all my students do is value notans. When I demo the “value” of doing value studies, some eyes roll. But they learn the drill and know I will ask them to pull out the notan if I don’t see it in view, especially if a painting is not coming together like they had hoped.
Students have a choice of about 15 still life set ups from which to work. We explore tonal range, how to change the composition to enhance the linking of value masses, and we try different formats and vantage points.
As I was working with each student down the line, I heard a seasoned painter whisper to a new student who earlier had been reluctant to take the time for the preliminary notans, “It’s worth it.” Now that’s gratifying!
Water Dance, soft pastel, 20 x 16″
©2009 Marianne Post
I have had an urge to abstract the landscape. Something that I have gradually been inching towards at what seems like a snails pace. It’s interesting that I have never heard an artist say they want to “tighten up.” And why is letting go of the detail so difficult?
In what is the last of my current waterscape series I decided that I could attempt a more abstract scene. I wanted the series to have a cohesive look, so I knew right out of the gate that a total abstraction would not be appropriate. I could gingerly work my way towards the abstract and literally get my feet wet.
I chose a close up view for Water Dance thinking that would help with the abstraction. While the strokes are looser, probably trying to keep the cohesive feel for the series held me back. But the seed for the next painting is in the one I just finished so we will see where this all leads. That is one of the many joys of being an artist. We can be inspired by the world around us, but we can create are own interpretation of it.
I recently visited a fellow artist. A few days back she had the opportunity to watch a video, Watercolor Sketchbook by Brian Ryder. Her new sketches were incredible. They were loose and her line work had an expressive quality about it. She raved about the video which features ink and wash techniques and said that within the first 10 minutes she had learned something that dramatically changed the way she sketches. Enthusiastically, she told me about how she finally learned to hold a pen.
She showed me her new found way to make extraordinary marks on the paper and then graciously agreed to pose as my model so that I could share this with you.
As she explained and demonstrated, she had always held her pen or pencil like she was writing; choking up on the barrel of the implement near its point and resting her fingers on the paper. A death grip to be sure. Brian Ryder suggests in his DVD, to loosely grip the pen much further back on the barrel. The only part of one’s hand that touches the paper is the side of the wrist not the side of the fingers. The drawn lines become loose, a bit squiggly, but add so much more character to the finished sketch. She swears that now the pen does all the work, and she’s along for the ride.
Taxi! I am off to try it out for myself!