Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Pleasures of Online Exhibits

His Sundae on Sunday is a 24x18 oil done by Shirley Fachilla.
The primary pleasure of a strictly online exhibit is self-evident. If your submission is accepted, you don’t have to frame it or ship it. It’s like shopping online, so much easier than the alternative!
You also don’t get to go to the reception… because there isn’t one. Some artists might consider this a plus; some a negative. I come out on both sides of this issue. Sometimes I love receptions; sometimes I don’t. If it’s far, far away, I almost never attend even if I would like to. (It costs more to get me there than the painting.)
This sweet guy eating ice cream was accepted into the latest NOAPS online exhibit. His title was originally Sunday’s Sundae but the apostrophe was an unacceptable element for the submission service provider so it had to go. (Sigh)
I used several photo references for this work. (My photography skills demand a lot of tries.)

As I painted and after I stopped referring to the photos, my little boy began to look more like Jack, my grandson, than the little fellow I photographed. This has happened to me more than once. I bet it happens to other artists out there, too.  

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Very Nice Surprise

The Tenderness of Youth is a 14x14 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

I was delighted to learn this Thanksgiving that I was chosen as the Featured Artist by Carrie Turner and Brian Sherwin in their FASO series on FineArtViews. Here’s the link to the article they did about me! Brian has such a beautiful way with words and they chose one of my favorite paintings, The Tenderness of Youth, as one of the images. (That’s it at the top of this post and here's a link to the blog post I did about that particular painting.)
I feel very honored indeed. Thank you so much Brian and Carrie for a wonderful early Christmas present!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Modern Day Tronies

Buried on Page Five is a 24x18 oil done from life. I think of it as a modern day tronie.

First you’re probably wondering just what a “tronie” might be. A “tronie” is a genre painting done in a portrait format. It’s a term used to describe some 17th century paintings. Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring is a tronie. Vermeer’s painting was not intended to be primarily a likeness of a particular person but rather a depiction of a type. We don’t know who the girl with the pearl was and neither did Vermeer’s contemporaries.
Many of Rembrandt’s self portraits are really tronies; Rembrandt dressed up, sometimes sumptuously, sometimes in exotic garb and painted himself, not as a portrait but as a “type.”  Famous master artist was one of his poses (that he wished to be the truth rather than a pose); swashbuckler military man was another.
Rembrandt, Vermeer and their artist contemporaries had the opportunity to paint secular subjects for sophisticated collectors. These collectors wanted beautiful paintings and the human face and form was considered one of the most desirable of subjects…thus the tronie.
Today, no collectors ask for tronies.  Artists still paint them but we call them “head studies” or “figurative works” or we don’t categorize them at all.
To see some beautiful tronies that are simply called paintings visit Carolyn Anderson’s website.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

This Time a Narrative

Paintings counterclockwise from the top:
The Amish Way, Killing Time, Where the Grass is Greener, Farm Girl, Farm Tan.

This is my little wall for the month of November. (To see a better explanation of “walls,” please visit the post, My Little Wall.) November’s wall has a narrative connection. Here’s the story line:
Should the guy with the Farm Tan quit longing for Where the Grass is Greener? Should he stop thinking of the lady who’s just Killing Time and consider following the Amish Way? The Farm Girl is waiting for him to make up his mind. 

There’s an alternate ending with a painting I decided not to use. Instead of perhaps getting The Farm Girl, the guy with the Farm Tan would have been Hung out to Dry. But I thought most of us would prefer a happy ending. 
P.S. The italicized  words are, of course, the painting titles which were given independently and at different times. Who knew they would one day make a story! 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ring Guy Extraordinaire!

 Jack, the Ring Guy is a 7x5 oil by Shirley Fachilla
Please meet Jack. He was my daughter’s ring bearer at her wedding and now her son for ever. He's in his ring bearer duds. The painting is one of twelve that I did as gifts for her wedding party. They were all small, and Jack’s was the only portrait. I think I captured his sweetness but didn’t manage to show his mischievous twinkle.

Doing twelve little paintings all in a row reminded me that small is hard! I learned that I liked doing roses and beer, wish I had planned and painted more autumn leaves, and discovered that though I love drinking champagne, I find it exceedingly hard to paint.  Of course, I loved painting Jack and will love having him as my grandson even more. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Georgia on My Mind

Wedding Rose No. 1 is a 6x6" oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla
Georgia O’Keeffe said she painted individual flowers in extra, extra large sizes so viewers would really look and see the beauty of the flower.
I’m sure that was at least part of her reason. But I also think she painted super big flower portraits because she loved to demonstrate the abstract design created by those petals.

My flower is hardly supersized; it’s definitely a mini. But by making my painting an extreme close-up, my rose becomes an exercise in abstraction as well.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Brand-New Juried Show

Lightfall is an 18x24 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

I’m very happy to be included in a new national juried show being held in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. This is its inaugural exhibit. There will be about 100 juried pieces from artists across the country plus new work by the originators of the show, the Cumberland Society. It promises to be a beautiful show.
It will be up from October 3 to November 1 with an artist reception from 5 to 8 on Thursday evening, October 3. The place is Richland Gallery on the second level, 4009 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville. Everyone would love to see you at the reception. Or you might plan a day to come while it’s on display. (There’s a very good restaurant next to the gallery.)

Peggi Kroll Roberts is the judge of awards; here’s a link to most of the pieces in the show. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Imaginary Landscape

The One that Got Away is a 18x14 oil done from life and imagination.

This is one from my Monday open studio but with a bit of a difference. The river (or maybe it’s a lake?) behind her is an imagined one.
The imaginary landscape has a long history. Just think of Mona Lisa and the fantastical rocks and water Leonardo gave her.

Even Claude Lorrain, who was perhaps the first landscapist, painted from his imagination. It’s said that he did oil sketches from life on which he based his finished work. But no one could look at Lorrain’s idealized serenity and not know that his painted world was more truly a product of his heart and his imagination. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

So Happy Together!

As I’ve posted before (here), I have a little wall of paintings at the Tennessee Art League in downtown Nashville. I usually try to change out the work on a monthly basis.
Each month, there’s a struggle with how much to include and how little. I’m a rather firm believer that less is more, but the urge to use every inch of possible space is still present.
But less truly is more. Too much and it becomes so hard to see the individual trees (read paintings) for the forest.
So I restrain myself and try for something of a monthly theme. The theme is subtle. At least I hope it is. As the judges chide on Project Runway, “don’t be too literal in any interpretation of a theme.”
This “theme” started with girls in cowboy hats but then morphed into objects lit by a strong directional light. Yes, I know “girls in cowboy hats” sounds more fun; and believe it or not, I had more cowboy hat pieces; but it’s the theme of strong directional light in each of these paintings that keeps them… so happy together (not the cowboy hats)!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

If at first you don't succeed...

Little Girl Dreams is a 20x10 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
I don’t know if this is from The Little Engine that Could, a quote from my mama or simply one of those truisms that everyone subscribes to. Wherever it came from, my painting Little Girl Dreams proves its wisdom.
I painted Little Girl Dreams in one of my open studios. I liked her enough to submit her to last year’s American Impressionists annual juried show. She wasn’t accepted.
Normally this wouldn’t bother me too much (as an artist, it’s rather essential to develop a thick skin); but I really did like the painting and more over, if I had to describe my art in terms of one of the “isms,” it would be impressionism. I was quite disappointed.
I decided to try again. I submitted Little Girl Dreams to The Best and Brightest annual exhibit held by the Scottsdale Artists School. Little Girl was not only accepted; she won an Honorable Mention. I was delighted.
But her story doesn’t end there. She was one of my submissions this year to the Best of America exhibit, the NOAPS national juried show. And she was chosen to be a part of that exhibit!

Little Girl now has a couple of happy endings, and I think lessons for everyone. First, believe in what you do; and second, keep on trying.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Jacket But Not the Cat...

The Jacket But Not the Cat is a 20x16 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

This is an example of an insider title (works on the same principle as an insider joke); you must know about another painting to understand it. The title refers to a wonderful portrait by Cecilia Beaux of a man in a white linen suit with an orange tabby cat in his lap. Her painting is filled with light, beautifully colored light complimented by rich dark shadows. When I saw our model at open studio dressed in his linen jacket, I immediately thought of Beaux’s painting.
Beaux was a contemporary of John Singer Sargent and in my opinion, Sargent’s equal in portraiture. (Please note I limited my comparison to portraiture. Sargent's watercolors and figurative pieces are something else again.) 
Supposedly her man with the cat was in fact, her man, a fellow who proposed to her on more than one occasion. (She did not accept.)  Looking at her painting, I think I can see that Cecilia greatly liked him but any discernible love may be directed toward the cat!  

P.S. Someone brought to my attention that the link to the available Chestnut workshops in the previous post didn’t work. I’ve corrected the link. Once upon a time, it did function and now it does again. Or you can simply click here to see all of the available day-long workshops including mine. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Workshop Extravaganza!

Against the Red is a 18x14 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.
On September 12th, I’m doing a first. I’m teaching a one-day workshop on the figure. The day will be very focused. We will be working to bring fluidity and gesture to the painted figure. We have a great studio lined up and a lovely model for the day.
I’ve been thinking of on-point exercises and looking for resources to list and illuminating quotes to use in the hand-outs. And I’m remembering some of great workshops that I’ve attended, those given by Carolyn Anderson, Peggi Kroll Roberts and Dawn Whitelaw. I hope to structure this day to reflect what I found most helpful during those sessions.
My day is only one of 14 day-long workshops offered by the Chestnuts during a two week teaching extravaganza. All instructors have volunteered their time so each and every workshop is very affordable.
During the two weeks, participants can learn color from Dawn Whitelaw, values from Kevin Menck, perspective from Gayle Levee; and this is only a small part of what’s available. Here's a link the entire program. It’s a fun read, and I think it promises to be even more fun to attend whether you come for one or 14!

Oh yes, a chunk of workshop proceeds will be given to Chestnut partners that also work to preserve the natural and historic glories of Middle Tennessee.

Monday, August 5, 2013

"To Be the Song"

To Be the Song is a 24x18 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

“O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?”

William Butler Yeats
Among Schoolchildren

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Making an "Audio" Tour

The Resilience of Age is a 24x12 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.
I've just created a first for me, an audio for museum goers to hear as they look at my painting, The Resilience of Age. I wanted to post the audio so you could listen to it (even with its imperfections).  However, audio files are very, very large, and the technical aspects of such a posting are very, very beyond me.
So I'm going to post the gist of what you would hear if you were touring the Laumeister Fine Art Competition at The Bennington Center for the Arts in Vermont.
P.S.: I've posted this painting before; but I think it deserves another because it made it into the Laumeister.

When you read this, imagine Morgan Freeman's voice!

"Most of us don't think of age as resilient but rather as a time of brittle bones, weakening muscles and a host of unavoidable physical limitations.
But in painting this man, a good friend by the way, I came to the realization that age can be a time of conscious resilience. It can be a time when in the face of acknowledged adversity, we pick up that walking stick, put on a jaunty tam and continue on the journey with a resolute and, might I say, resilient stride." 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Look How Much You've Changed!

Heliotropic is a 22x16 oil done from life and then redone by Shirley Fachilla.

Children who’ve grown six inches love to hear those words. Adults who’ve gained six inches don’t. But painters are like children; they want keep on changing and growing.
I first did Heliotropic about four years ago in an open studio session. I liked the way the model’s face was raised as though awaiting a blessing. And I liked the way I had painted her hair. In fact, though I did absolutely nothing with her (not even taking the time to finish out the background), I liked the painting and looked at it every now and again.
I recently decided on a use for her, finished out the background then took a photo.
The painting as done four years ago
As so often happens, the photo helped me see the painting more objectively. I saw many things to change. I realized I had grown as a painter and was now able to judge and yes, paint more competently than I had four years ago. 
I redid the background and made her coat make a bit more sense (artists call that getting a representational illusion to “read” better).  And I repainted her face and parts of her hair. Some things were lost. The sureness of stroke is less, and I think I made her too pretty. But some things were gained. The values improved; the added glints of light in her hair created a needed delicacy and variety in mark making. 

I also learned a new word that I could only halfway define before. Living plants are often heliotropic i.e. they turn toward the light, just as my painted girl instinctively lifts her face to the sun.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Painting by Intuition

A Little Romance is a 14x11 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.
Painting by intuition sounds so romantic. It implies feeling rather than thinking; passion rather than calculation. Occasionally, I do feel as though I’m painting intuitively. Those are the canvases where the design seems apparent, each brushstroke works, the color is just what I intended, and the whole painting simply flows.
But sometimes, intuition is something else again. These are the pieces where I am quite literally feeling my way.  Plein air painting can often be like that, and A Little Romance was like that as well.  I painted by light so low that color, even value was done with quite a lot of guesswork (or intuition if you will).
I bet you’re thinking, “gosh, why didn’t you get a light or move to where you could see?” Lighting my canvas would have changed the light on the model, moving would have changed the subject’s pose and the light on her was the very reason I wanted to do the painting. So I painted “intuitively.” I painted what I felt was right.
Robert Genn recently had a letter about creating an atmosphere to promote intuitive painting. I think my low light situation might qualify as the needed distraction in his recipe for painting by intuition… although the music he suggests seems preferable!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Little Wall

The Tennessee Art League (TAL) has a new home and a new opportunity for artists. Now located at 219 5th Avenue North (the Avenue of the Arts) here in Nashville, it’s offering wall leases for art!
I leased a wall. My wall is 4x8 feet; it’s moveable. It, and its sister walls, are situated in the middle of TAL’s rather expansive gallery space.
The wall is mine to fill with whatever paintings I want. So I did!
Of course, I forgot my camera but my husband’s phone did an adequate job of capturing an image.
Drop by TAL sometime when you’re downtown or on the First Saturday Art Crawl.

Heck, come on down and rent a wall! 

Monday, June 3, 2013

It's All about One's Mood...

Nothing to Cheer About is an 18x14 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

The guy looks glum… the guy looks bored… the guy looks as though his team is losing.

Today, in my open studio, there were seven painters; all were painting the same subject, a guy with a beer wearing the sports paraphernalia of a fan. But only mine looked unhappy.
One rendition seemed iconic, another mysterious, yet another showed a happy fellow with bad posture. Only mine looked so sad.

A friend of mine once said that a painted portrait is as much a portrait of its artist as it is of its subject. I understand this to mean that the artist’s emotions, opinions and thoughts are on display in a portrait just as they are in any painting.  Obviously my mood today was not upbeat. I do notice, however, that my painted beer seems deliciously appealing!

Friday, May 24, 2013

It's Show Time!

Frist’s Art Deco Eagle is an 8x10 plein air oil by Shirley Fachilla.
The very stylized eagle is one of four flanking the two main entrances to the Frist which began its life as the downtown U.S. Post Office for Nashville.

Frist’s Art Deco Eagle will be on view and for sale in the
Nashville Open Air Show at the Tennessee Art League
on Fifth Ave of the Arts in Nashville, Tennessee
Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, from 11 to 5
also Saturday evening 6 to 9.
The Art League gallery will house many paintings done by the Chestnut Group to benefit the Frist Visual Art Center.

I have a couple of other shows I’d like to mention as well. I have a painting in the NOAPS Online Show. You have to work a bit to see the painting; scroll to my name on the right and click on the number next to my name.  Tanya Bone’s beautiful Best of Show is worth the visit.

I’m also represented in the Butler Institute of America Art’s Midyear Show by my painting, A Long Lunch. This is an annual juried show held by the Butler. The Butler was the first ever museum dedicated to American art. Located in Youngstown, Ohio, its building, designed by McKim, Mead and White, is on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Midyear Exhibit will open on June 30th

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Those Rules about 3's

Esprit de Corps is an 11x14 done from life by Shirley Fachilla.
Artists know about the rules of three, mostly because they’re so simple. Divide the canvas into thirds horizontally and vertically to find perfect places for focal points. (The intersections are the focal point possibilities.)
Artists are often also advised to paint threesomes rather than even numbered objects. Rules of three, so simple but…
They really shouldn’t be called rules at all. They are guidelines that work sometimes. For instance, dividing your canvas into three parts vertically and horizontally works when the canvas is a horizontal rectangle (with the longest dimension the horizontal one). It doesn’t work very well with square canvases or portrait rectangles (ones with the longest dimension a vertical). 
Our eyes do find an odd number of objects more pleasing but…
If two objects are grouped so that they form one mass, twosomes can be just as pleasing.
And it’s quite liberating to paint couples. Afterall, three is supposedly a crowd!  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Blue Ballerina

Blue Ballerina is a 24x15 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

Ballerinas, like women in hats and people under umbrellas, are subjects that painters love. Why you might ask? Believe it or not, I’ve actually thought about this question and even written about it in the two links above!
There is, of course, the obvious: ballerinas are usually beautiful and elegant in form, women in hats are often romantic and sometimes mysterious, and those umbrellas? Well, they can be colorful as well as great sources of reflected light in marvelous and unexpected hues.
But I think the main reason painters love umbrellas, hats and ballerinas are the shapes. At least, for me, their shapes are what I love. Those curves and swoops, oh my, such fun to paint. And with ballerinas, you not only have a beautiful human form in a leotard, you also have tutus and tulle!
[My painting is an unusual size because it literally grew as I painted it. However, I do not recommend painting in unusual sizes because it makes framing more difficult and expensive.]      

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

With a Little Help from my Friends

White Sundress is a 14x18 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.
I love painting with other artists in open studio. There’s a wonderful sense of shared endeavor and community. At the same time, there's no instructor to tell you how to paint.You are absolutely free to go your own way and of course, it follows, sometimes make your own mistakes. 
Having said that, it’s also a great way to learn from your friends. White Sundress once had a shelf holding a framed picture in its negative space. My friend, Jean McGuire said. “I really like this painting though I had a little trouble understanding (and she pointed at the shelf) that area.” Jean is tactful.
I, being somehow attached to the shelf I’d painted, didn’t follow up on her thought. Later another friend, Pam Padgett, said, “Like the painting, but that shelf is hard to understand, and you know it interferes with your negative space.”  
Two good artists and friends agreeing meant I saw the shelf and the picture in a new light. They were painted out. Ah, yes, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”  
[Need to know the arty meaning of “open studio” and “negative space”? Please visit the Artful Definitions page.]

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Rainy Day with Matt Smith

Somewhere along the Coast of Maine, a 9x12 oil.
Plein air workshops normally take place outside on (one hopes) bright sunny days. A grey day brings out the grumbles from workshop attendees. We want light effects and plenty of them!
So I was sad when one day of a three-day Matt Smith workshop was very wet and very much an inside day. But actually I learned a lot with that studio time… maybe more than when I was out chasing the sun and looking for shade.
We worked from our own photo references. Matt believes in using photos as references primarily for larger paintings. He says a photo can supply structure and details missing from a plein air study and perhaps more importantly jog a memory.
He doesn’t think a photo needs to be perfect. (What a relief! Mine never come close!) But they do need to be of a paintable subject.
This is where the inside day was truly helpful for me. My favorite photo was not a paintable one. And I must admit cascades of white water with barely any discernible form beneath would be difficult, if not impossible, to build a good painting around. But a soft morning in Maine? This was quite possible and I had a fairly good photo to jog my memory. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

So-o-o Very Nashville

Ruffled-up Cowgirl is a 24x12 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

Boots and really big cowboy hats are very, very Nashville, even for girls. This particular girl is part of the annual juried Women Painter’s of the Southeast show which this year takes place right here Tennessee. The show’s not quite in Nashville but is very, very near in Franklin, Tennessee.
The exhibit's hanging at Imagine Gallery at The Factory on the Mezzanine, 230 Franklin Road. I hope you’ll have a chance to drop by for the reception or sometime during the show.
The reception is from 6 to 8:30 on Saturday, April 20th. The show will be up from April 19 through May 20.
Ruffled-up Cowgirl is one of two pieces that I have in the show. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Into the Interior

Blue Silk Kimono is a 12x24 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

Sometimes they’re lumped with genre, but most often they’re overlooked. I’m speaking of paintings which have as their subject, interior spaces; they’ve received rather short shrift since the Dutch of the 17th century loved and bought them for their homes.
However, I think they’re making something of a resurgence. Just look at some of the interiors painted by Paul Oxborough, Pauline Roche or Karen Bruson.
For artists, painting inside from life can be as fun as plein air, but it’s definitely harder to get permission. Oils and turps can be a messy business afterall.  
My interior was painted from life at a new open studio opportunity here in Nashville so the mess potential didn’t matter. I hope I have the chance to do many more.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Following the Light

A Rose Is a Rose, Is a Rose* is an 11x14 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla. 

I really like edgy, unexpected compositions like those of the Impressionist Degas. An especially striking example is his painting, La Coiffure. It’s of two women; one is combing the other’s hair. 
Two-figure compositions are difficult, especially when the figures are separate (as these are). In the painting, there’s no overlapping or visual connection.  Though the hank of hair stretching across the canvas does join them, Degas obliterates that connection by painting the hair and its background the same color and value. Instead of following the flow of hair from one woman to the other, our eyes follow their long pale arms, a much more interesting path.  
Because La Coiffure is virtually a monochromatic work done in reds, those arms, white apron and tablecloth become light pathways that lead the viewer through the painting. The faces (almost always a focal point for us humans) become instead casual pauses along the path of light.
Now how does my painting relate? I created a very straightforward light path from one side of my canvas to the other. Follow the light along the vases and rose to my lady and then travel back again via the pale tabletop.
*My title is a quote from the great art patron, Gertrude Stein.
[If clarification is needed for composition, monochromatic, value, please see the Artful Definitions page.]  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Complicated Lives

Turistas without Umbrellas is a 24x18 oil by Shirley Fachilla.

Every once in awhile, I try my hand at a scene with multiple figures. Such paintings are complicated challenges in part because they must usually be pieced together from photos, sketches and memory.
Of course, in the days of patrons and grand altar pieces, multiple figures were almost the norm. Michangelo’s The Last Judgement, Titian's Assumption of Mary and Rubens’ Descend from the Cross,  to name only three, are all filled with multiple bodies. What painters they were! They created marvelous compositions filled with passion, emotion and movement.  
But I think for all the drama and virtuosity of those works, the modern eye prefers something else entirely. We will look at Zurbaran’s solitary monks to fathom their mysteries and study Rembrandt’s self portraits for glimpses into the complexity of a single soul; but Rubens’ many-figured canvases, we pass them by with scarcely a pause.  
In the twenty-first century, we seem to limit our interest in the intricate to still life and landscape. For people, we prefer one complicated life at a time.
For another look at multiple figures, visit my post, People Who Need People

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Plein Air and Memory

Where Otters Play is a 16x20 oil by Shirley Fachilla.
First half was done plein air; second half was memory and imagination.

This painting was begun by the Harpeth River late on a summer afternoon. The day was winding down, and the canvas was bigger than my usual plein air size. I didn’t finish. I color blocked and had to stop.
I brought the piece home and told myself I would return again in the late afternoon on another day. But life (and procrastination) intervened; summer turned to fall then to winter. I didn’t go back. I hadn’t taken a photo. So I remembered, and I imagined.
The most important memory? Remembering what I wanted the painting to be about when I was there on the bank of the Harpeth.  This I did remember very well, and this I tried to put into paint.
Where the Otters Play is one of the paintings I have in the Nature’s Legacy show to benefit the Warner Parks of Nashville. It’s a Chestnut affair this weekend, Friday, March 8, through Sunday, March 10, at the Warner Park Nature Center, 7311 Highway 100, Nashville, Tennessee.
If you’re in this neck of the woods, please drop by. There will be literally hundreds of beautiful paintings by the Chestnut Group, and a chunk of all sales will go to the parks.   

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Working on the Dark Side

Rainy Day Traffic is a 6x6 oil done by Shirley Fachilla and is much darker in tone than it may appear on your monitor!
Nope, this is not about joining the forces of evil. It’s about whether a painting would be classified as mostly dark or mostly light. Why does it matter? Actually it matters for at least a couple of very different reasons.
The first is that the darkness or lightness of a painting sets its mood. 
Paintings that are light in value and color have a happy feeling. For instance, the Impressionists with their light values and colors produced a lot of joyful paintings. [See this prior post.]
But paintings that are dark rather than light tend to be moody, edgy, mysterious. Rembrandt’s Night Watch, though not really set at night, is certainly dark. It made members of Capt. Cocq's military company seem both seriously heroic and involved with great and mysterious things. By the way, it also revolutionized group portraiture which prior to Night Watch had the look of an elementary class group photo.
Secondly, putting a painting solidly in either the dark or light camp gives a painter a great compositional tool as well as an effective technique to pull a painting into a harmonious whole. An artist who often used darkness to achieve these goals was John Singer Sargent. He wrapped his subjects with darkness whether they were heiress, actress, author or child.   

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Lure of the Exotic

 Home-Grown Exotic is a 20x24 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

So what do you find exotic? Surely, it all depends on your point of view. To Georgia O’Keeffe, New Mexico must have seemed quite foreign after New York and before she adopted its red rocks as her new home.
The Impressionists, of course in their love affair with Japanese art, found it to be delightfully different not only in technique but in subject matter as well.
Remington’s cowboys were as strange to his collectors back East as the harems of Delacroix were to the Frenchman who bought his Romantic canvases.  
And for Europeans, the vast landscapes of the American Hudson River School , like Asher Durand's Progress, must have seemed worlds away from their safer, more comfortable scenes.
What do I find exotic? Our very American model who came in gypsy gear and seemed a world away from the usual… and was so fun to paint.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Such a Narrow Focus

A Long Lunch is a 20x24 oil done by Shirley Fachilla.

I painted the woman’s face more than a half a dozen times. Such a challenge! It was a lesson in values and edges, one that I’m still very much learning.
[For the art meaning of value and edge, please visit my Artful Definitions page.]
You see the woman’s face is shaped by a very narrow range of values. Because it’s completely in shadow, there are no highlighted planes to give it form and drama.
I tried to follow Peggi Kroll’s advice and create form with color changes rather than value. I tried to follow Carolyn Anderson’s advice and pay close attention to my edges.
I love rim light, highlights and significant value shifts so for me it was no an easy task.
I should have studied Sorolla’s Maria at La Granja before my first attempt. Maria’s entire figure is in light shadow, all beautifully done.
Of course, my woman has her own narrow focus; all aimed at her lunch companion. I wonder if he aware?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Painting in my Comfort Zone

Waiting for the Cue is a 24x20 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

I missed more than a month of painting. That’s the longest time I’ve gone without a brush since I began painting seriously about nine years ago. I so missed it. I found myself imagining paintings, redesigning paintings, then finally looking over my paintings and those of others online.
Waiting for the Cue is the first painting done after my hiatus. It felt so good, and it went so smoothly. Of course, I was painting in my “comfort zone.” All painters have such. It’s the subject, the composition, the lighting, the medium that you understand the best.  
My comfort zone? Employing an almost full value range, from very light to very dark; painting from life; using a single figure as my subject; having a strong directional light source to illuminate that subject; and using high chroma sparingly to make things pop.
Knowing what you can do comfortably is a good thing. But tackling the techniques you find harder is the way to grow. I’m doing some of that now… if I can incorporate some of these new skills in my comfort zone, I’ll share them with you.   

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Snow White's Apples"

Snow White’s Apples is an oil painted from life by Shirley Fachilla

I paint pieces that I like; I paint work that can only be classed as a “study;” and I paint things that I dislike. When I’m feeling confident, I wipe off the disliked and also sometimes the “studies.”
There’s no need to keep the failures if I’ve figured out why they failed. There’s usually no need to keep the studies for I’ve learned by simply painting them. (The studies kept are those I might use to create another more fully realized painting.)
But then there are those paintings that fall in none of those categories. They are the paintings that I really like, but that I painted on a poor to bad surface. Snow White’s Apples is a case in point.
I like many things about Snow White. I used a different palette that I plan to use again. I incorporated a still life that turned out well and is fully a part of the painting. I like the brushstrokes; they enhance rather than distract. And the composition is just different enough to satisfy me.
But I painted her on a scrap of linen that had been wiped and scraped… only not enough to create a smooth surface. There’s a horizontal line that runs across the canvas bisecting her poor head and skimming the top handle of the basket. This is old paint from the prior wiped painting. Nothing will fix it; alas, it is a part of Snow White forever.
Carolyn Anderson in her workshop said to use good materials. It’s a lesson I thought I learned… but sometimes I guess I need a reminder like my little Snow White

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Resilience of Age

The Resilience of Age is a 24x12 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.
In 1951, Andrew Wyeth painted Trodden Weed. Consisting of a pair of elegant boots in mid-stride crushing a slender weed underfoot, he called it a self-portrait.
Shortly before painting Trodden Weed, Andrew had undergone a life-threatening operation; afterward, he had taken to walking about the countryside in a pair of old, but elegant, boots to rebuild his strength. He said that in his unsteadiness, he realized how often we all unknowing, blindly crush and trod living things underneath our stride.
My question for you is: in this “self-portrait” was Andrew the pair of boots or the resilient weed being crushed underfoot?
As you might guess from the title of my painting shown above, I think Andrew was the weed which far from being obliterated, sprang back to live another day. Andrew Wyeth lived to be 91 years old.    

Is it too early to send an invitation?

Pieces by (clockwise from left to right) : Susan Harlan, Janet Garner, Shirley Fachilla, Mike Martino and Topper Williams. So many ...