I got tentatively back to painting this week for the first time in a month or so. Regular readers will have noticed that I haven't been posting here nearly as often as I usually do. Normally I wake up every morning thinking about what art I want to make that day. I feel lucky to be a happy painter -- I don't have to cultivate or channel angst in order to make my art. That generally makes for a happy life.
However, in times of trouble and grief, it means that I hit a point where making art is very hard for me, and sometimes I just have to take some time off. I'm in the process of getting a divorce, and it's been difficult to work lately. Fortunately I don't have any shows looming, and my clients for the above commission have been very understanding.
The only thing I've been able to tackle lately is the series of lament psalm prints. They're heartfelt, relatively small, and simple in just black and white. Hopefully I can get back to more complex printmaking soon. I miss it, but it's sometimes hard to dive into a more intricate project. In the meantime, I'm trying to finish this painting (it felt great to get back into it) and also keep going with the psalms, since one is due each Sunday in Lent for use as church bulletin covers. The whole set will be available in digital form for any church that would like to use it for future occasions.
Here's the first proof for next week's psalm.
I'm not sure if "landscape illustration" is a proper art term, but it's how I describe lots of what I do lately. This term for me includes house portraits, commissions of people's homes, but also paintings of businesses, hotels, or restaurants for use on websites or in brochures. I have really enjoyed branching out into this category.
The best ones for me involve either beautifully enticing travel (like my work in Cape May, NJ) or merely require me to stroll around the block with my chair, as was the case with the top painting. This house backs up to my block, and I love walking past it. It was fun to get the opportunity to paint it.
Sometimes commissions surprise me as well, once I get to the address in question. The house below belonged to friends of mine some years ago, and I used to babysit their daughter in this house. When I drove up to find the address on my assignment, it was fun to find an old friend to paint.
I got an email from Kevin Philip, the advertiser who brought me into the Congress Hall, Cape May work. He wanted a winter produce still life to advertise their Beach Plum Farm, which provides vegetables and other products to the restaurants up there. I hadn't done a still life in ages, and it was fun to cruise the produce section looking for interesting forms.
Here's the painting in process, with still life set out on my work table this morning. I love the morning light I get there.
I don't often take photos of my watercolors in progress because they go so quickly, but I had a request on my Facebook page yesterday, and it seemed like a good idea.
Above is the first pull of a new print of a gorgeous old house in my neighborhood. Below is the second pull. There are still a few things I want to tweak, but it's pretty close to finished. I'm getting faster at getting right in the neighborhood of what I want during the first real carving session. This is slowly becoming a more intuitive way to work.
I had a rare day where I didn't make any art yesterday (a series of other obligations and a little time just sitting in the park to drink up some winter sunshine), but the day before I put the sky into this painting. It felt great to play with clouds in oils again. The main thing I'm unhappy with in my watercolors is my handling of skies. It's fun to be doing a lush one in oils again.
Today I'll be back in the saddle.
All the work I've done for Cape Resorts Group in Cape May is being used by Stella Bean advertisers. They are building a new website for the group that incorporates my paintings, but Kevin Philip is also creating fun extras, like e-cards to send out for the holidays.
Below is the storyboard for the Congress Hall one, which uses three of my watercolors to make an animated card. You can flip through the document below to see the progression, and you can follow these two links to watch the full e-cards.
Several of my Christmas commissions were downtown, and it was fun to get to a neat part of town I don't visit that often. I did the above one perched up on a wide concrete wall at Butler Park, just by the old Goldcrest 51 brewery building I loved so much in high school. The neighborhood has changed greatly (and for the better), but the view is still amazing.
On my way home, I scored a parking meter just opposite the Fire Museum I needed to paint, so I worked in warmth and comfort. Perfect.
Today I'm featuring The Virginia Hotel at Cape May, in my tour of places there I've painted recently. It is the truly lovely Victorian hotel owned by the same family as Congress Hall. I'm a total sucker for old buildings, and this is a lovely one. It also has an inviting and charming front porch, where one can procure a glass of wine and watch the world go by. Perfect.
Inside is the Ebbett Room, a truly first class restaurant. The kind that self-employed artists don't visit very often, so a real treat when I go to Cape May on this job is one utterly lovely meal in the dining room.
When I went back last week, the Virginia was all decked out for the holidays, and it was fun to paint its lighter side.
This is Congress Hall, the hotel whose owners have twice flown me up to do illustrations of this and other properties. This past trip (last week) was for me to be able to paint their many and varied Christmas activities. It was a perfect way to start the season for me. The family has created a marvelous holiday atmosphere, complete with a brilliant off-season use of the pool area as a German-feeling Christmas market. (But with hot chocolate spiked with Bailey's instead of the German gluhwine -- a vast improvement, to my mind.)
This trip I was able to stay in Congress Hall itself, which is a lovely old building with a double grand stairway upstairs that has railings that feel like silk from generations' worth of hands trailing along them. I adore old buildings, and this is a lovely and very welcoming-feeling one. The lobby, complete with its own tree, is shown below.
They are incredibly hospitable to me when I stay. At Congress Hall, I was delighted to find a New York Times outside my door every morning. And they feed me beautifully all week. They not only have wonderful restaurants on the campus (see the Blue Pig Tavern below), but the staff went out of their way to make me feel welcome, since I was there traveling alone. This is a rare sort of job for a self-employed artist to find, and I still can't believe my luck. Even better, they say they're having me back in the spring. I can't wait.
Two of Memphis' fine musicians got married last night, with many more fine musicians in attendance. The bride had asked me to sketch the wedding, and it was my very first time to do such a thing. I'd never even thought of sketching a formal wedding before, but apparently it's becoming something of a thing, since there was a recent New York Times article about just that phenomenon.
I was honored to be asked as well as both pleased and a little scared that the bride trusted me with her special day. I don't do faces much at all, but she had loved the opera sketches I did a while ago (very quick and impressionistic), so I said I'd do my best.
It was quite a whirlwind -- partly because of the short ceremony (fortunately the rehearsal beforehand let me do some extra sketches of the ceremony poses) and partly because it was my first time to try to capture such a broad, changeable event.
Here were people signing the guest book before the ceremony. The wedding was in an art gallery with gorgeous black and white photos all over the walls, which made for a great backdrop.
There was wonderful music. Sean Murphy played a wooden flute, bowls, and drum for the ceremony. I recently sketched his brass band playing at the end of a race. I think this is my favorite sketch of the whole group.
In addition to six finished watercolors (more to come as I get them scanned in), I also did 23 quicker pencil sketches in a book that the bride can keep. Here are the first two. Again, I'll post more as I get them scanned in. It was an intense three hours, but also very rewarding.
First the front piece. (I should have gotten someone else to do the lettering.)
And the bride arranging her own flowers. I loved the laid-back, easy feel of this wedding. It was a delight to be included in the festivities.