Monday, November 3, 2014

Taken for a Ride by Tim Horn

 So Ready to Party is an 10x8 oil done plein air by Shirley Fachilla.
I find California artist Tim Horn to be a very different sort of landscapist. His paintings have such a crisp contemporary edge. You would never mistake one of his pieces for a 19th century work; both style and subject (even when it’s a cowgirl on her horse) shout “now.”
So I was delighted when the Chestnut Group invited Tim to give a workshop this fall. I was even more delighted when the workshop began because I felt I spoke Tim’s language.  He said many things that I have been thinking but hadn’t put into words. And his emphasis on composition and color is where my art has been going (at least, I hope so!)

One of Tim’s favorite subjects, vintage cars, was not on my radar. But following his example, I decided to give it a try. I must admit I mostly wanted to paint this orangey red Jeep because of those fairy lights draping the building behind. But once I got started, the car showed me its personality (I saw it as basically a party animal) and it became the star of my piece.   

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Finding the Square Within

A Flora for a Roma is a 14x11 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

Inside every rectangle is a square. Well, of course, you can find many squares. But the one I’m referring to is the square whose sides are the same length as the short side of the rectangle.
As illustrated by the dashed line inside the rectangle below:

This sort of square is called a rabatment. Why this lesson in geometry?
Simple. If you put the major elements of your painting within the rabatment, you will have taken a big step toward a good and interesting composition. Cassatt used rabatments as did Winslow Homer and most especially Degas.   Rabatment explains some of Degas’ most elegant designs, those wonderful ballet studio paintings where empty floor space takes up a third or more of the canvas. 

Elements outside the rabatment often lead the viewer’s eye into the square and should be secondary to those contained within the square portion. There are many interesting things an artist can do with rabatment. With A Flora for a Roma, I’m just beginning to explore.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

So Busy Composing My Thoughts!

A Bermuda Shorts Day is an 18x24 oil painted from life by Shirley Fachilla. 
On September 14th, I'll be teaching a one day workshop focusing on composition. When I began gathering my thoughts on this enterprise, I thought it would be very straightforward. I wanted to emphasize how easy it can be to achieve a painting you like (and might want to frame) when painting either in plein air or painting the figure from life in an open studio... easy if you pay attention to composition issues before you paint.
Of course, it won't always result in a painting you'll be proud of (too many other factors can intervene), but sometimes it does. And when it does, it feels very good. For instance, the guy shown above was painted in a morning in an open studio. He won a Meritorious Entry in the latest Richeson75 Figurative Annual Exhibit which made me quite happy.
Anyway, after I started planning and thinking, my lesson started expanding exponentially. I still plan to lay out my thoughts on quick composing whether in the field or open studio. And we'll practice what I'm preaching! But I do plan to include more, for the more I thought, read and looked, the more I realized just how truly vital good design is. Now I'm convinced that an artist's approach to composition is a big factor in that artist's style, and the effectiveness of that artist's message.
I hope and think our little group will have a very good and informative time discussing and planning good design. And I'm going to try to give everyone take-home thoughts to explore long after our day is done.
Here's a full listing of the day-long workshops sponsored this September by the Chestnut Group, here in Nashville. You just might find one or more that appeal.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Portraying the Human Spirit

Passage Through St. Lazare is a 24x20 oil by Shirley Fachilla.
I’m very proud to have work in the exhibit Portraying the Human Spirit at the Bennington Center for the Arts in Vermont. It’s a juried show of only 26 paintings which will be on display at the center from August 2 through December 21. I’ll quote the center on the theme of the show, “Our goal in jurying Portraying the Human Spirit was to find portraits that were more than portraits…”
Each artist was asked to do an audio for their work explaining process, inspiration, etc. For me, the audio may have been more difficult than the painting! However, I was delighted to have the opportunity to put into words what this painting meant to me. Finding those words? Definitely, a challenge.
A bit about the Bennington: This year, the venue hosted the national juried show of Oil Painters of America, and every year has an invitational wildlife art exhibit that is probably the very best east of the Mississippi, perhaps the very best nationally.
Again I’m so honored to have work at the Bennington in such a meaningful exhibit.

Here’s the link to the show.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Improbable Painted Daisies

Improbable Painted Daisies is a 20x10 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

Actually I don’t know if the flowers were really daisies, much less the painted daisy variety. I found them at the grocery store and couldn’t resist the color combination of deep purple petals and neon green centers. I also loved that they were so perfect… well except for the one that I almost beheaded. That one had to be included in my painting in all its imperfection.
This particular still life let me utilize one of the perks of painting on an untoned white canvas.
See that sort of luminous red and blue in the middle of the vase? Using oil you can only achieve that sort of color if you are floating a transparent oil color (in this case permanent alizarin for the red and a combo of blues for the blue) on a white, untoned canvas. The white of the canvas shows through the transparent paint like the white of the paper shows through a wash in watercolor. But with oil, the color keeps a very high degree of saturation (definition found in ArtfulDefinitions). 
Every once in a while, I have the opportunity to make use of this little trick. I love the look it gives.

On the subject of still life (which rarely comes up in this blog), Brian Sherwin has something interesting to say in one of his latest ArtEdge emails. I think I may agree, at least in part, about the value of symbolism with still life though I do think his symbolic examples may be too straightforward. Personally, I find a great deal of very subtle whimsical symbolism in Carol Marine's little still lifes (whether or not they include her porcelain pig). How about you?

Monday, June 23, 2014

How is a Max Like a Carolyn?

The last painting I did in the Max Ginsburg workshop on day five.

I made a surprising discovery during Max Ginburg’s workshop, he paints like Carolyn Anderson. If you’re familiar with the work of both, you will realize that I’ve just made a rather amazing statement. For though both are primarily figurative artists, their paintings look nothing alike.
Carolyn’s are sometimes close to abstraction; Max’s are sometimes so polished and finished they might be mistaken for reality.
Both say that they are always drawing as they paint. And both work in the same intuitive way with a bare minimum of any sort of measuring. Instead they rely on the angles and relationships between shapes to get proportions right. Both strive to capture the gesture and to do it without losing the accuracy of their drawing. (much easier said than done and so important when painting the figure.) They both correct throughout the painting process and are always adjusting and refining brushstroke by brushstroke. 

Their method allows for precision with fluidity, accuracy with freshness. 
It’s what I also strive to accomplish. I'm just so lucky to have found two such different, yet similar, masters to inspire me.     

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Five Days with the Master, Max Ginsburg

My work from the first day 
I’ve just finished a wonderful learning experience, a five day workshop with Max Ginsburg right here in my home city of Nashville, Tennessee.
I knew Max was an amazing draughtsman, and artist friend Mike Sowers had told us that he was a good teacher. (Mike had taken a workshop from Max at the Art Students League in New York.) So I had high expectations, expectations that were not only met but exceeded.
Max’s work ethic astonished. We started early; we stayed late. Jeanie Smith, the creator of  Warehouse 521 Max’s venue in Nashville, brought in lunch and Max proceeded to lecture during lunchtime! He did demos for us almost every day, but the demos were quick so we would have time to paint and learn from his lead.  And he brought a stack of his beautiful little paintings for us to learn from as well. Some were quite finished and polished; others were very painterly.  All were gorgeous.

More about what I learned from Max in my next post. Some of that learning was quite surprising!  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why I Should Be a Vegetarian

Sun and Shade is a 12x16 oil done in plein air by Shirley Fachilla.

I think cows, bovines, cattle (whatever the proper term might be) are one of the most appealing animals on the planet. They move with a kind of grace that is just a bit awkward like human teenagers at the gangly stage. And they socialize together for snacks and naps sort of like kindergarteners. They look out at the world with their big long-lashed eyes, taking in everything with a mixture of curiosity and innocence.
These attributes make them wonderful subjects for paintings as well as the fact that they often stay still for rather long periods of time as did these belted bovines who posed so nicely for me one glorious sunny day.

Yes, I definitely should be a vegetarian.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

"All Her Worldly Possessions"

All Her Worldly Possessions is an 18x14 oil on linen done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

I am very happy to report that All Her Worldly Possessions picked up an Award of Merit in the NOAPS International Online Exhibit for the spring of 2014.
The exhibit features 150 paintings with work from Russia, Canada, Japan, British Columbia (I have not listed all the countries) in addition to, of course, the U.S. And though this will sound even more braggy and boasty than I’ve already managed, the figurative work included in the show is, in my opinion, particularly outstanding. I am honored to be with so many wonderful artists.
I am also delighted that my painting was done completely from life because that’s the kind of painting I enjoy most.  I need the push of a deadline (the pose only lasts for a few hours) and find that painting from direct observation can (if I’m lucky) give my work a freshness and immediacy that I can achieve in no other way.  

A word about show judge, Cheng Lian: he is a National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society Master who does a lot of portrait and figurative subjects. He was both the judge of selection and of awards which makes it very much his show. Often these two functions are performed by different persons. Organizations tend to look for a big name to choose the award winners while leaving it to others to select the pieces for the show from all the submissions.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Losing my Edge

Old Teapot, Old Rose, Fresh Pears is a 9x12 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

It’s an old-fashioned, tried-and-true still life subject, flowers, fruit and teapot. But that’s not what I mean by losing my edge. (Not that I’ve ever been very edgy.)

Edge is a sort of technical term for artists.  In a painting, where one value meets another, where one color meets another, there’s an edge. As you can tell from the definition, paintings are made up of a series of edges. A primary trick for representational artists, and for many abstract ones, is to make those edges mimic three-dimensional reality, to create the illusion of depth, form and weight on a two-dimensional surface.

Edges can be soft, can stutter and break or simply disappear entirely. The hard edge (sharp and well defined) is the easiest to create and the one to use the least.

I’m thinking a lot about edges these days because I just attended a Carolyn Anderson workshop and toured a Joaquin Sorolla exhibit, two masters of the edge. They each succeed at creating beautiful edges in completely different ways which gives me hope that I may find my own way to make wonderful edges. So I came home and made a still life, a still life that is all about the edge, when to hone it and when to make it vanish.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Remembrance of Cezanne

Filagree is a 14x11 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

You may very well be wondering why Filagree is a “remembrance of Cezanne.”   
I’ll try to explain.
I went to a Cezanne exhibit at our National Gallery in D.C. a few years ago. Those paintings took my breath away. His still lifes had such volume and presence with apples and oranges that looked as though they could tumble out of the canvas and roll across the gallery floor. Then there were the views of St. Victorie, so varied and diverse although they were all of the very same mountain.  
There was one painting that especially captured my attention. It was a simple portrait of one of his father’s farmhands, farmhands that he often painted playing cards. He painted this man alone with the light catching his eyelashes, so that the lashes were etched in light. It seemed such a delicate touch for the study of a laborer and for a painter lauded for his ability to convey mass and weight.

My view of our beautiful model at open studio allowed me just such a view. Her lashes were turned to gold by the light, filigreed so to speak. Thus she became my special remembrance of Cezanne.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Different View

Once Upon the South is a 12x9 oil painted from life by Shirley Fachilla.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may know that I belong to The Chestnuts, plein air painters for the land. It’s a local organization dedicated to the preservation of the natural and historic beauties of Tennessee.
The Chestnuts help preserve and commemorate with their paintings. This is the second time we’ve used our art to help the Battle ofFranklin Trust.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Franklin (a town in the next county from Nashville) was the scene of a horrific Civil War battle. Thousands were killed; and an army virtually destroyed, all in the small village of Franklin. The battle was a pivotal factor in ending the war less than a year later.
The Trust was created to gather and preserve that original battlefield; it has made great strides in the endeavor and Chestnut art has helped.
I find painting for The Trust an emotional experience; quite literally one is standing on dark and bloody ground. This year, I painted mostly inside the Lotz House, a family home located smack dab in the middle of that conflict 150 years ago.
Johann Lotz was not slave owner. He was a cabinetmaker from Germany who came to America seeking a better life. His daughter Matilda Lotz later became a very successful painter (a rarity for a woman of that time). I find it fitting that painters should come back to the Lotz house to reimagine and preserve on canvas the times and lives of its former inhabitants.
Matilda’s Tea Party is an 8x10 oil painted from life by Shirley Fachilla.

Our art will be on sale at The Carnton Plantation, 1345 Eastern Flank Circle, Franklin, Tennessee. The exhibit will be Friday, March 28th, through Sunday, March 30th. The hours are 9 to 5 on Friday and Saturday, 12 to 5 on Sunday.

Hope you can make it. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Abstract Beneath

The Blonde at the Window is an 18x14 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

A month or so ago I went to a wonderful art lecture given by Maggie Siner. She’s a very accomplished artist, one who has thought deeply about her art. She'd come to Nashville to give one of her rare workshops.
I didn’t manage to get into the workshop, but I did make it to the lecture. I’m so glad I did. 
It was not set up as the typical artist demo. Instead she showed the audience a series of paintings by some of the greats of the past. Her primary point: that within every successful representational painting is an abstract and the power of the painting derives from that abstract play of dark and light.
For truly great paintings, the power and the meaning of the representational subject is also reinforced and magnified by the abstract design that lies beneath.
She used work by Degas more than once to prove her point. Degas is one of my favorite painters; I think his compositions (his abstract designs) are some of the most innovative, interesting and edgy of any artist alive or dead.

When I painted my The Blonde at the Window, I was thinking of the lecture and of Degas. I was thinking of the abstract beneath.       

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What Lies Beneath...

Troubadour is a 24x18 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

There’s a very well-known painter who advocates repainting canvases. By this, I mean he suggests painting over failed works with another. And he isn’t adverse to letting a bit of the past peek through.
A branch of a tree there, an arm or a leg here… hmm, hope you get the idea.
In fact, I believe he suggests that the painting lurking beneath the surface can add depth, character, interest to the new painting on top.
I’ve followed his recommendation several times and found replacing the failed with the new very satisfying.
Troubadour is one of those paint-overs; underneath there’s the partial wipe-out of a very sad fellow in a golfing tam. The quality of the above image just captures the remainder of the golfer’s face; it’s now just a bit of glowy pink in the light coming through the window, the golfing green is just a slightly darker hazy neutral in that same light.
I once followed another painter whose process incorporated the paint-over in her every work. She would paint a figure, wipe it off, repaint over the ghost image, wipe it off, and paint it again until she was satisfied with the result. Her work had a real richness and depth derived from that very process.
Her art proved that what lies beneath can sometimes inform the visible in a quite meaningful way.  


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Shades of Downton Abbey

More Alike Than They Know is an 24x18 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.
I'm lucky enough to have an open studio available which poses models in interior settings and as you can see above, sometimes in costume.
It can be very challenging to paint such poses with suggestions of the surrounding interior in the limited time of an open studio. It's especially difficult with more than one model. But I'm getting faster and maybe a little better. Anyway it's a lot of fun to try to get an interesting painting from the mix.

[An open studio is a gathering of artists in the same studio to paint together without instruction; usually, though not always, the artists are painting the same subject.]   

Monday, January 13, 2014

My Continuing Love Affair with Parasols

Butterfly is a 20x16 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.
I think this is my latest figure with a parasol; I love painting people with or under umbrellas. In this blog, I’ve even examined why I, and other artists, find such people so great to paint. 
I must also admit I have done many more umbrella/parasol paintings than I have ever posted in Sometimes… at least, I haven't posted them yet!
I’m posting this, my latest, because she’s in Arizona at The Best and Brightest juried show in the Scottsdale Artists School. There are some especially lovely works in this year’s show.

Here’s a link to them all. (You might brew a cup of tea or pour a cup of joe and tour this year’s offerings online.)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Monet's Train Station

Monet’s Train Station is a 24x18 oil by Shirley Fachilla
My husband and I went to Paris a couple of years ago. It was a wonderful trip made in the grey of winter. I can report that Paris, that beautiful city, is lovely in winter. It’s a panorama of greys with rare splashes of color made all the more interesting by the surrounding neutrals.
I took many, many photos. Now during this Tennessee winter, I have wanted to remember the beautiful greys of Paris. So I’m using my photos as painting references.
I made quite a few in the St. Lazare train station, a favorite for Monet. In fact, he rented a small apartment nearby so he could paint the station at different times of the day and thus in different light situations.
St. Lazare no longer plays host to steam powered trains as it did then, but the station itself is still very much the place he painted with its huge glass gables, ironwork and stream of passengers, most so very, very French from stylish Parisians to others just in from the countryside. 

This particular painting of mine features one of the stylish city dwellers but it’s truly mostly about St. Lazare, its functional and graceful iron skeleton and its beautiful, beautiful light.  

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 ...