Moody, Minimalist Landscape Painting

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Springing Ahead: Art and Life in the Time of Coronavirus

So very busy in my studio this past winter, and now in early spring, I want to share some highlights and also upcoming good news; and continue a bit with my pandemic diary.

My first and most exciting announcement is that I am now represented by Rice Polack Gallery in Provincetown. I have been showing in Ptown for decades, but with many limitations on size of work, visibility, and organizational support. With this new gallery I am in the excellent company of other contemporary artists in a well-run gallery with a beautiful space in a great locale on Commercial Street. Very exciting!

I know that there are many Cape fans among you, so I hope that you all check it out next chance you get. 

Here are a few new pieces headed that way in April:

 

White Light/Green Marsh, 48″x36″.

 

Attachment, 36″x60″.

Link to my page on the gallery website, still in progress:

CHRISTIE SCHEELE

I am scheduled for a show at Rice Polak from July 22-August 4, and there will be ample work at the gallery through 2021.

 

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In the something new category, I will be doing a three-hour livestreamed painting demo on March 25th. While I have fond memories of a demo in my studio one fall several years back with an appreciative small crowd, warm conversation, some tasty snacks and a bit of bubbly…this will do for now. I am thinking that this could be of interest to friends and collectors as well as my students. 

 

Adult Classes

The image for the painting will be a salt marsh in late summer color, 22″x28″. I will be using a Vasari paint set that I purchased as a kind of research project about paint quality and pigments, something I get asked about frequently in my color-mixing workshops.

To hear more, sign up for the demo and/or my upcoming color workshop with the Woodstock School of Art:

CHRISTIE SCHEELE CURRENT ONLINE COURSE

 

In January and February I completed two demo pieces while teaching from-the-heart landscape painting workshops online for the Woodstock School of Art.

The first is an image of Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard on a summer day. I began each workshop with a short video of water, and was delighted to find that I had a short clip from the actual day.

I had long wanted to do a contrail in a blue sky, and found that in this image it creates a nice graphic without being overly intrusive. (When I try it again I might want to make it a more assertive feature, like my headlights generally are.)

                                                          Menemsha with Extending Lines, 24″x48″.

 

Last summer I was fearful that this winter would bring crippling depression to many people. I worried about my fellow Americans and election results and my fellow humans worldwide and isolation and Covid fatigue and those who are/were suffering already. I worried about all of the new deaths that were coming…and have come.

But instead of all bad news, we have so many things in sight. We have hope! This has hinged almost entirely on the election results, without which we would not have the essential piece—a vaccine rollout that while imperfect, has the attention and determination of the new administration behind it. We have governance at last. We are back in the world community, back in the climate change conversation, back to consulting with our allies…no longer a rogue nation.

Still, our Covid winter has dragged on. Echoing within the isolation that I feared, our emotions are all over the place. While hope is huge…we also have fear, anticipation, the blues, gratitude, stress, loving kindness, loneliness, generosity, and enormous sorrow and loss.

Update to the vaccine conversation: I got my first dose last Sunday, booked for me by a friend. Talk about gratitude!

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Below is the second demo painting, done in the February workshop for the WSA, a local scene with high contrast to create drama and low color saturation for mood.  

 
  • Signpost with Gleaming Sky, 20″x20″.


    Last week, on a Tuesday/Wednesday in February (IN the Catskills, IN a pandemic) I sold three medium/ large pieces through my gallery in Rhinebeck, Albert Shahinian Fine Art. My first word of this was Tuesday morning and by Wednesday at four the couple were in my studio selecting paintings #2 and #3. By the next day the largest piece was at my framer’s and now they are on their way to Florida.
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“Particularity of Place”, 36″x36″.

 

Interwoven Stories, 30″x60″.

This sequence of events may seem lightning-fast, serendipitous, almost magical in its precision. And yes, let’s savor the feeling!

But there is a back story.

It starts with the gallery being open day after day, during time which often there are no sales at all. There are frequently folks who come and fall in love with an artist or two and admire every single painting and then leave to have lunch and think about it; or go home to measure; or only one spouse is present and needs to consult with the other. And then they may drop from sight for a while—weeks, months, years—or forever.

This happens often enough that for the galleriest it can feel like the promises of return are a lot of hoo-ha, and sometimes they turn out to be. But, people frequently don’t purchase artwork on the first occasion that they discover it, especially above a certain price point. They google the artist and look for their track record and other galleries; make sure that the prices are consistent with elsewhere; go home and look at their space; discuss which piece(s) they want and where they should go. They await a renovation or a new house. Sometimes they are so busy that they can’t think straight. Other times their job transfers them to London—maybe we will see them again several years later when they are transferred back!

One of my sales from last fall with this same gallery was a a client who had been considering my work for quite a while. I believe she was waiting for this perfect spot to be created: .

 

The couple that bought these three paintings loved my work when they saw it a few years ago, but had a home with full walls. When they came back this time, it was with a newly acquired second home in Florida with entirely empty walls. All three pieces—the third seen below—are to go in the open-plan, atrium-ceiling living room.

 

Turquoise Light, 30″x40″.

I am a glass half-full kinda gal, so I remember the many stories like this where the fans of the work return with intent. It helps that I am not the one sitting the gallery during the empty moments…one of the reasons for my deep gratitude towards my galleries.

Meanwhile, I am also hard at work painting new pieces for the 2021 season for the Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard. The Menemsha piece will go there in early May, along with this piece, the first of a series of images of a sparkling day last September off-road on Poge on Chappaquiddick island.

Poncha Pond Passage, 14″x48″.

Also, a big chunk of my February: Two 29″x87″commissioned pieces through the Forrest Scott Group, now installed on the same wall in a financial services firm in Florida. These good-sized pieces look small on such a large wall, and grace a room that is otherwise a white box with computers and a big TV screen—hopefully they give pleasure to the owners and staff!

 

 

Upcoming this year I have loosely scheduled a solo show in August at a new, beautifully renovated  gallery in Fleishman’s (NW Catskills), 1053 Main Street Gallery. That show will be a mix of imagery and sizes, kind of a re-intro of my work to that region and an intro to the many folks who have been purchasing homes there in the past few years.

And then, in the fall, a solo show with my old steady, Albert Shahinian Fine Art. This show will be smaller than my last there—one of the two exhibition rooms rather than two—and feature the series that I began last fall, Things Past.  

More on these shows in due time!

Art Ethicist: Giving Credit

“I recently did a painting that was copied from a picture of someone’s pastel painting (was in Plein Air Magazine.)  I used oil paints, the original is pastel.  Question: Is it considered unethical to copy someone else’s art work even if you are using a different medium?”

This question came in from a student last month as I offered to answer any ethical questions relating to the world of art-making, selling, and teaching.

The short answer is no. Copying is a time-honored way of creating and improving skills. While copying, you see the solutions that the artist has used and learn from them.

Your finished piece, in incorporating the skills of the original artist, will be not the same—and is likely improved—from what you would do on your own.

That leads us to the more complicated answer to this question, which involves what you do with that artwork.

If it is to sit in your studio to inspire you, no further action is required.

But if you are going to show it on social media or in an exhibition, credit needs to be given if:

~You copied another artist, or were strongly inspired by a work of theirs.

~Your artwork was done in a class or workshop and was improved upon by the instructor’s comments that were specific to your piece.

The practice of giving credit springs from gratitude and a sense of community. We are discussing it here as an ethical question, but it is also an attitude toward life and our fellow humans that has been shown to have many emotional rewards for the practitioner. 

If you have benefited from the artwork or instruction/feedback of another artist, a mention or an expression of thanks is always appropriate, both ethically and to foster community-building. 

 

A painting by Joanna Murphy, whose work I fell in love with on IG in fall of 2019. Her work is now available through Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck.

 

 

 

December 2020 Year-end Newsletter/Life and Art in the Time of Coronavirus

What a year.

Let me begin with a little gratitude journaling.

While I know a number of people who have suffered and died from the Coronavirus, my immediate family members remain healthy. 

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We had a lovely summer, during which my yard grew and bloomed like crazy. My husband made repairs on and painted my studio and much of the exterior of the house. A series of breakdowns (plumbing, washing machine, car, I can’t even remember what else) forced upgrades and interior renovations as well. Also a huge amount of sorting, divesting of stuff, and organizing of those things that made the cut, projects that had been needed for years, maybe even decades.

 

 

I have zoomed and zoomed, teaching yoga and painting and hanging out with family. In August we arranged the very open corner of our front porch into an outdoor living space and had folks over at a safe distance while numbers were low in NYS and the weather held, catching up on each other’s Covid-era lives.

I am grateful to our governor for governing, and being an innovator in dealing with the Covid crisis. I have never much liked Cuomo in the past and may go back to disliking him in the future, but he stepped up and kept us as safe as he could. And I felt safer for it.

Also on my gratitude list is the greatly raised awareness created by the Black Lives Matter movement and resulting baby steps towards police reform. As I listened more intently to the stories being told and the history behind them, I learned a great deal. I also reread the three Toni Morrison novels that I have on my bookshelves and made myself really sit with the horror, understanding that it is not behind us.

 

A piece by my friend Veronica Lawlor from late May.

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Deep breath.

The whole year was rich creatively for me in my studio. While I feel that my life has a nice balance between painting and time spent with family and friends, practicing and teaching yoga, hiking, gardening, and reading, I also see the rewards of decades of obsessiveness about my creative practice. I have so much momentum and so many ideas to be followed up on that I don’t get blocked, and that has served me beautifully during quarantine. My studio continues to be my refuge, the place where a world of things are possible.

I am very grateful for this video, brainchild of Silver Hollow audio—who created it first as an audio project—and the Emerson Resort, who added the slideshow to make this wonderfully produced six-minute survey of my work as a landscape painter in the Catskills. It was featured during their remote Community Week offerings. They had to take it down and relaunch to correct a typo, and I am afraid that there were a number of folks who tried to go to it a few hours after the launch and found the link broken. Here is a working link:

Sales have been robust. I have also done six commissions in 2020, when some years I don’t do a single one.

 

The commissioned painting that I did during lockdown was the largest painting I have done to date, an incredible project to have at such a time. Above is the 6’x8′ painting after it was installed by Albert Shahinian Fine Art.

The surgeon’s lounge at a well-known Florida medical facility, through Forrest Scott Group.

 

Private Commission, 20″x60″.

Fall has been busy, with folks returning indoors and seeking out new paintings to enjoy in their homes. Here is a sampling:

 

Glowing Grasslands, 12″X12″, Sold by Butters Gallery.

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Shore with Still Mists, 18″x52″, studio sale.

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Earth & Sky, 24″30″, sold in the WSA instructors show at Lockwood Gallery.

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Snow Fields, 24″x30″, sold at the WSA Instructors show at Lockwood Gallery.

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“Windstorm”, 30″x40″, sold by Thomas Henry Gallery.

 

Summer Hillside, 30″x30″, Albert Shahinian Fine Art.

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Resting Grens, 12″x12″, studio sale.

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Magic Hour with Drifting Clouds, 24″x48″, sold by the Louisa Gould Gallery.

 

Provincetown, 20″X30″, studio sale.

After months of Covid routine I still have moments of shock at where the world has landed. I was one of the folks who believed in the scientific predictions of an upcoming pandemic and had tracked the news about the H1N1, SARS, and Ebola outbreaks (the latter not over, by any means), feeling huge relief that they had been contained before a pandemic ensued.

So I was reading intently about Covid-19 from early January. (Thank-you NY Times. I have heard people say that there was no coverage early on but that is not true—they were reporting on it daily, but most readers were not paying attention.). It didn’t take more than a few articles, as the evidence emerged, for me to become convinced that this time we were in for it, all of us.

And yet, I could not conceive, really, of what that would look like. The wildfire spread and chaos in Wuhan wouldn’t happen here, right? We would learn from their mistakes and prepare, right? And then Italy’s mistakes and oh whoops it’s here and nobody has done a thing for containment, medical treatment, the economy…nada. No learning, no preparing, no leadership…and maybe worst of all, no efforts to create a national sense of community and responsibility towards each other.

But of course, we are shocked day after day by the poisonous indifference at the top, even marveling at our continued ability to be shocked at each ugly outburst, each new blatant lie and evidence of corruption and narcissistic failure to govern.

Cutting to the chase, I will summarize by saying that when we look back on this period, it will look like the Influenza Epidemic of 1918-20; the Great Depression, the McCarthy era, and the civil unrest of the late 1960s, all rolled into one.

Looking to the nearer future, I believe that we have to seek justice and redress for those who have committed crimes. And as for those who show signs of wanting to shake off the trance induced by the orange cool aid, we need to think about what deprogramming could look like. Shaming and raging (much as it would seem appropriate because many deaths have been caused) won’t help in that effort, and if we can recoup any citizens from this zombie apocalypse, we should.

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Deep breath.

Images of my newest work:

 

September Light, 36″x48″.

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Things Past/Esopus Valley, 30″x30″.

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Things Past/Hunter Mountain, 30″x30″.

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Horizon with Rising Clouds, 30″x60″, $7,500.

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Sunset Light/Open Road, 24″x36″.

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Warm Fields, 30″x40″.

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Blue Mountain, 12″x12″.

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Mountain Road, 24″x24″.

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Fall Reflections, 24″x30″.

Since last summer I have given a good deal of thought to this coming winter, mulling over ideas for how I can contribute to the comfort and engagement of others. With my back-to-back workshops for the Woodstock School of Art I have worked to inspire a creative spark, encouraging the kind of focus that is healing and invigorating. Nonetheless, I could envision winter, with its increased isolation and Covid anxiety, creating a bigger, deeper need.

So I dreamed up a workshop that I hope will bring us back to our most loved places. Going straight for the heart, it is called, “Love and Longing: Landscape and Mood”. Quite a departure from my roster of zoomed classes so far, which have focused on formal considerations, from color-mixing to composition.

CHRISTIE SCHEELE LOVE AND LONGING: LANDSCAPE AND MOOD

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A generous discount and donation to regional food pantries is being offered on a selection of my pieces at Albert Shahinian Fine Art:
 
 

Summer Cloudbank, 10″x30″.

 
And a sweet sale continues through December at the Louisa Gould Gallery:
 
 
 

Surging Swell, 48″x48″.

 
To see all of the oil paintings that I currently have in my studio:
 
 

I have long had artwork at my friend Dave’s beautiful shop in Phoenicia, the Tender Land Home. This month we are offering a raffle for a framed oil-on-paper painting with all proceeds going to the Phoenicia Food Pantry. Tickets cost $20 and you can call in to enter if you can’t stop by, 845 688-7213. The drawing is on New Year’s Eve.

View from Little Mountain, 6″x8″.

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It is in the present that we are truly alive, so I wish you connection, engagement, focus, and yes, joy, in the upcoming months.

One Small Painting on a Compositional Journey

While teaching a four-week workshop focusing on composition for the Woodstock School of Art, I began this 12″x12″ painting.

Here is the reference. 

 

 

I almost always eliminate some detail from my reference photos, and  change the location, size, shape and color of elements so much that I am  recreating the image. Much as I am taken with the view that I choose and the moment in time it captures, everything I do pictorially is in service of the overall painting.

Here is my first version.


When I took the above shot I had already moved the white stripe twice, ending in a spot in between the other two tries. As you can see, I eliminated the cars to the right and the center line, which veers so sharply left that is squeezes against the car with the headlights (which is the focus of my painting) and divides the picture plane oddly.

I included the phone pole to the right and a very faint indication of the yield sign on the left.

I had several critiques, at this point, as I got away from the piece for a bit and came back. One was that the upper edge of the mountain too closely follows the top edge of the treeline, creating a shape that is less interesting than it could be and also encourages the eye to roll down and off the side of the picture plane to the right.

A successful composition keeps the eye circulating, starting with a focal point and then allowing it to move around the painting. This is something that is not so much a road map from the outset, but explored each time through a combination of conscious decision-making—where am  I putting these headlights?—and intuitive painting. Then, when something doesn’t look quite right, getting it to where it does is a process of trial and error. 

In terms of color, the blues of the mountain and the off-white of the sky seemed too bright for the time of day that would throw the road into such deep shadow. It is hard to see this in the photograph, but this brightness drew attention away from the headlights.

The below is my next version. I am starting to get an edge at the top of the mountain that is more interesting—not so bumpity-bump. I tried painting in a faint back mountain above and then painted it back out again. I gave a little more height and brightness to the yield sign.

The interaction between the tree line and the top of the mountain still didn’t feel right, and the shape of the shadowy trees going off to the right left me dissatisfied. I had been thinking about lifting the phone poll a bit higher, and decided to do that, as well create a higher shape on the right that alludes more strongly to trees or bushes on the right side of the road.

In what turned out to be my final version, I changed the direction that the highest tree is leaning so that it points toward a flat spot on the ridge line (rather than being an upward bump that presses toward another upward bump) and raised the phone pole—much better!

The yield sign went in and out a few more times and then stayed out—-I felt that, much as I liked the shape of it, it fought with the headlights for attention.

The final color is deeper and softer, with the addition of some reds around the headlights that are very subtly echoed in the off-white of the sky.

And last, I changed the curve of the bottom of the bushes as they meet the verge on the right, from a down curve that follows the white line to an up curve as the shape goes off the picture plane. That small adjustment, really kind of an after-thought, was my favorite tweak of all. It created a satisfying shape with the shoulder that funnels the eye back into the painting and toward the headlights.

 

Blue Mountain, 12″x12″

Because of all of the—to me, absolutely essential— changes, this small piece took more time to complete than the 30″x40″ that I did as a demo for the workshop, but which needed very little adjustment once I started painting. It is impossible to know at the beginning of the journey how long or complicated it will be!

The result of this particular journey is a simple painting, quietly moody.

September Newsletter/Art and Life in the Time of Coronavirus

It has been a lovely summer, even within the unwelcome adjustments required by Covid-19. The outdoors is more important than ever before, with my yard functioning as an extension of my studio not just to dry paintings but also to accommodate a few private students and visitors to view artwork. We continue to be careful.

I have been as busy as ever in my studio, and zoom-teaching my workshops in a weekly class format, a more intense schedule of teaching than in the past. The prep of creating or converting workshop subject matter into these short classes is an engaging stretch of the brain for me, a kind of multi-faceted design problem. I can also reach more people with a remote version, and that feels like what is needed now. Check out the Woodstock School of Art website for details on the upcoming, beginning Monday October 5th.

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The benefit for the Island Food Bank that I have been participating in all season long with the Louisa Gould Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard has been extended into fall. Every sale contributes to mitigate food insecurity. This is our most recent:

 

Magic Hour with Drifting Clouds, 24″x48″.

This painting sits squarely in my-most-favorite-things category, the aspects to what I do that please me the most and that I am the most proud of. The color is unusual and heavily mixed to greys, with the cool and nearly flat grey/green of the marsh and blues, pinks, and a hint of purple in sky and water. The bit of a brighter cool blue, the brightest color in the painting, counterbalances with a certain cheeriness the otherwise dreamy and quiet mood.  It illustrates something I say frequently when I teach color mixing: that you can harmonize more hues from the color wheel if they are desaturated then if they are all bright and strong.

In terms of composition, the triangular shape of the marsh is echoed in the clouds. The whole composition would tend to pull to the left, with the clouds either drifting or tumbling in that direction and the marsh also going off on that side: but the almost centered tree and and point of the marsh to the right pull in the opposite direction and keep the eye circulating within the piece.

In my workshops I have been analyzing dozens of artists’ paintings in the manner of the above. Such fun to do this with one of my own!

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I completed another large commission in July, through Forrest Scott Group and for the surgeon’s lounge in the Florida branch of a well-known medical facility.

 

This piece involved an unusual amount of effort and tuning, since I was doing a large version of my photo of an earlier piece. For that piece, I used my photo reference only glancingly, so it was of little use in the large version. In addition, the designer and art consultant selected the image based on a jpeg of the smaller painting, which had a bit of reflectivity in the sky that I had not noticed earlier and that they quite liked and expected to see, understandably, in the final piece.

It is a complicated sky by any standard, with translucent oranges transitioning to cooler reds into mauves and then a soft plum-color going from left to right: oranges into light naples yellows and into the purples going up. The clouds vary in the hue of their off-white, as well. Not hard to do, just hard to do the same way a second time!

The result was satisfying though. Here is the install pic.

 

 

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This 40″x40″ was done in August, a familiar bend in the Esopus Creek as seen from Route 28 just before Phoenicia. Fog had always been a beloved subject of mine, shapes that softly dissipate.

 

 

I have had a run of one commission after another since last November. I can’t really explain this since none of them are connected to each other, except the below; and that is a story way too long and convoluted to recount. Recently finished, 18″x52″, conveying perfect tranquility:

 

 

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I got an email from an old friend inquiring about this painting, which she had seen on social media earlier in the summer. She said that she had a dream about it the night before, and was it still available?

 

The View from Here, 24″x36″.

 

After a yard viewing with her and her husband and a welcome catch-up, the painting went home with her. A sweet sale in every way!

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A few years back Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck brought a grouping of work to a home in Bronxville, NY, where the family was just beginning to settle into a new home. They decided on one piece of mine, preferring to figure out their lighting and furniture before more art purchases. This past late August Albert brought to them another two pieces that they had viewed at the gallery, and those went up as well.

 

 

 

 

Summer at the Creeks, 36″x24″.

 

 

My benefit for regional food banks continues with Albert Shahinan Fine Art as well. The first one that we did was more of a give-away, in which people could make a donation to the food bank of their choice and we mailed them one—or more, in most cases—of these mini collages:

 

 

For our second one, we went up in size and with another grouping, my 6″x6″ oil-on-board pieces, of which there were twelve at the gallery. After Albert sold a 4″x12″ piece on board and folded it into the benefit, we added the two of that size that he had on hand. Each sale is discounted for the collector by $100 and the same amount is going to either the Phoenicia Food Pantry or the Hudson Valley Food Bank. Here is where we stand now.

These are a few pics of pieces still available:

 

Flooded Roadway, oil on 6″x6″ board.

 

Yellow Gleam, oil on 4″x12″ board.

Inquiries for bigger/better pics of other works still available can go to me or to the gallery.

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Just to introduce this with a quick peak, I have been working outdoors with found natural objects as part of my Atlas Project, creating small installations. This is a circle back to some creek workshops that I did with kids years back, finding the possibilities fascinating but not the time to pursue them. This summer I have allowed myself the gift of some time and focus on the process, which involves a lot or trial and error to come up with an arresting image. There will be more of these going forward, and a blog post soon.

 

 

 

 

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We have been involved in house and studio repair projects all season long, instigating a sorting and reorganizing of just about every living and storage space we have. A cascade of breakdowns starting mid-summer led to emergency U-turns from planned projects…but much progress has been made, including a new laptop, car (a newer used Volvo wagon that I can carry up to 48″ wide paintings in, just like the old!!), upstairs plumbing, side of studio, washing machine, and paint job progressing on the house. We have been in this place since 1990 and have not been keeping up, so the sorting will continue.

It is also getting to be time to bring my houseplants in from the yard. I started with this area at the top of the stairs, where I have settled them amidst some ceramic work of my mom’s, as well as two of her paintings. She passed away last December, and I selected these two 12″x12″s from her estate because they are two of her best and because she did them in my studio about twenty years ago. The mirror was also hers.

 

 

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This newsletter is almost entirely art-related, as I have had so much going on in that arena and feel that I cannot even bear to comment on the state of the nation/world. But here I go: I fervently hope that this worldwide trend towards right-wing dictatorship will turn around, starting here in November. Vote! Vote early and in person, if you can.

 

Considering Color: Seven Historical Paintings

Color on my mind… I have been teaching my color-mixing workshop remotely for the Woodstock School of Art and next will move onto another live-streamed class that starts with color-mixing that will be the immediate basis for paintings. In any style or genre, the artists will create three paintings in the color compositions covered: monochromatic, analogous, or complementary.

Surprisingly, I have never written a blog post about this information. So, to share with more artists than I can reach with my classes, I will analyze here seven paintings, discussing color composition as well as hue, value, saturation, and layering.

I have chosen works from some favorite painters, presenting them in order of less saturated, more tonal color, to brighter, more saturated color.

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Twachtman was a master of tonal color. In this piece, he is working in a very subtle complementary green-red palette. The greens come in more strongly and have black embedded within them for the deepest value and then move through a whole range of mid and light tones all of the way to the white of the clouds. The reflection in the water has both reds and greens in it in a lovely, soft color segue from left to right. Another way to look at the color composition would be that this is mostly a study in many colors of grey, which tend to harmonize with each other. Note the date on this very modern feeling, tonal landscape painting.

John Henry Twachtman, “Arque La Bataille”, 1885.

 

This Milton Avery figure painting uses a stunning, simplified palette in blues and browns, a combination that I have always found deeply satisfying. Blues tend to be be a kind of beacon color in the human psyche, partly having to do with the history of color—coveted, romantic, even sweet at times. The earthy browns ground them effectively. There are several value and hue shifts with both blues and browns, the lighter blue in particular is cool while the deeper blue moves to a warmer, slightly more purple hue.The deep greys and an off-black in the hair, while cool, look to be middle hues between the blues and the browns, linking the flattened shapes together into a well-knit composition..

Milton Avery, “Summer Reader”, 1956.

 

In the Turner painting, below, a warm, desaturated monochromatic palette is used to very dramatic effect. There is not a full range of value contrast, the warm tones starting with a medium naples yellow and moving through deep, desaturated reds to to the deepest black, which is essential to the drama. The feel is of fairly bright golden colors, but in fact this is a tonal painting, relying on exquisite drawing and well-blended edges for the overall feel.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, “Chichester Canal” c.1829.

 

I selected this dynamic Frankenthaler in particular for it’s primary/secondary-color palette, red/blue/green. The three large shapes are equally desaturated, reminding me of slightly faded vintage cars that have been in the sun for decades. They are also of similar value and not quite flat, with canvas just barely showing through in some areas and breaking up entirely in the red. Also key to the success of the painting is the small shape of desaturated red on the right, presenting as a tint of medium value, somewhere between a pink and mauve in hue. (And of course, the graphic of that deep orange line!)

Helen Frankenthaler, China II, 1972.

 

A still life by Soviet era painter Vladimir Yukin, this painting is interesting as a well-integrated color study. In a complementary warm/green palette, it does have a full range of value, from white to deep greens and reds to black, but most of the painting is in mid-value, rich but desaturated. I love this painter’s work, often distinguished by the similar treatment of fore- and background, both in terms of hue/value/saturation and paint handling. This makes the delightfully off-center composition and dark outlines key attributes, as the positive and negative shapes embed with each other within a uniform surface. Splashes of more saturated color with the red/orange flowers add drama.

Vladimir Yukin, “Flowers”, 1970.

 

I couldn’t possibly discuss color, or my comfort-art, or art of the 20th century, without including Rothko, my single most ever-present lifelong influence. He loved red, and used it oh-so well, and was the master of subtle layering. This is an almost monochromatic palette, but that top line of warm yellow-green throws that meaningfully off. The layering creates many shifts in hue and value, like the whiter color on top of the background red that goes to pink, leaving an uneven gutter of the deeper red around the orange rectangles to create a beautiful vibration. And while the narrow top rectangle has the most going on, the flattest area of the bottom orange one counter-intuitively draws my eye, enhancing that well-known Rothko mesmerizing effect. This is a perfect example of when less-is-more, the emptiest area drawing the eye more than the busiest (if you can even use the latter word in describing a Rothko!).

Mark Rothko, Ornage Red Yellow, 1961.

 

Kandinsky was my first true love, and immediately upon discovering his body of work at age 14, I was drawn most to his expressionist pieces over the early landscapes and the later constructivist painting. In the below piece we see seemingly all-over-the-place color, and yet it harmonizes. Several factors are at work here to create this effect of lively, dense painting that hangs together. One is that most of the surface area is actually in a neutral cream to naples yellow color, light on the value scale. This is often a factor in work that appears very bright at first glance—the brights are popped and prevented from fighting by the neutrals, which here include the black lines, as well. Two other factors are a composition anchored by those black lines that keeps the eye circulating within the painting; and that he pretty much left out purple—omitting one of the six primary/secondary colors or one section of the color wheel can be very helpful in organizing a cohesive palette.

Wassily Kandinsky, Composition 4, 1911.

 

Well, this is the most fun I have had all week. I hope you enjoy reading it half as much, and please feel free to comment—agree, disagree, elaborate!

CHRISTIE SCHEELE COLOR MIXING AND COMPOSITION FOR PAINTERS ONLINE COURSE

Art and Life in the Time of Coronavirus: June Newsletter

Our hot, dry June has been a boost for my studio work, and with some ample watering, my garden as well.

 

 

Paintings have been drying readily in the yard, allowing me to move onto painting another layer or dry a finished piece after just a day of sunshine.

 

Castle, 18″x52″, available for viewing in my yard/studio.

 

Tidal Creek with Mackerel Sky, 48″x24″, now safely delivered to the Louisa Gould Gallery on MV.

 

First up in my news, I am open to scheduling yard/studio visits. I have contemplated an open studio/yard event, but am not ready for that quite yet, and also continue to be busy with painting deadlines. Maybe I will feel ready in a few weeks, or in August.

One of the reasons that I hesitate is because I have seen many of my friends and neighbors relax their guard around closer contact with others and mask wearing. The more that happens the more we become, as a community, a network with multiple access points, as far as the virus is concerned. We need to circle back to what we have learned: we cannot trust anyone, not even ourselves, to not have the virus. The virus is entirely untrustworthy, and not in our control. And growing, nationwide. So, distancing and masks—same old lesson. Rinse, repeat.

That said, the outdoors now provides us with wonderful opportunities for safe encounters. So if you would like to visit my studio, we can select a nice-weather day, and with masks you can take a turn around my studio and ask to see particular pieces outside on one of my tables or an easel.

I have done quite a bit of this sort of contact, taking walks with friends and having a BYO everything picnic, 10-12 feet apart with masks and 3-4 feet with them. You get used to it, though it remains hard with family.  And if this reminder is a downer, I am as weary of it as anyone, but see no other course that makes any sense but to stay the course…and live fully in every other possible way.

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In exciting June news, the delivery to Martha’s Vineyard of this season’s new pieces has been safely accomplished, and the Louisa Gould Gallery reopened a few weeks back, following the Massachusetts timeline and protocols.

 

Long Wave, 12″X48″.

 

Tidal Creek with Summer Greens, 24″x24″.

 

Soft Glow over Tidal Flats, 30″x60″.

 

My other galleries that have been able to reopen are Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck (weekends only), with a large selection of my work:

 

Overlook with Sparkling River, 16″x20″, 2019.

 

Summer Hillside, 30″x30″.

And Gallery Jupiter in Little Silver, NJ:

 

Summer Moors, 2 panels of 12″x12″/ea.

 

Affinity/On the Grid, 36″x48″.

 

My online show with Butters Gallery continues. A piece that they have in Portland, OR, was in my thoughts earlier today when we had a strong thunderstorm, complete with hail:

 

Catskills with Walking Rain, 36″x36″.

 

The View from Here, 24″x36″, in the online show and currently in my studio.

Link to the work in the show:

https://www.buttersgallery.com/Artist-Detail.cfm?ArtistsID=486&ppage=120

As I prepare to begin work on another commissioned painting, I still have a glow from the recently finished one, a 6’x8′ canvas installed in a private home at the beginning of this month. Here is my blog post on this ambitious piece created during the constraints of the shutdown, in case you missed it:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2020/06/09/a-large-commission-art-in-the-time-of-coronavirus/

Recent sales have included these pieces, through the Louisa Gould Gallery:

 

Summer Marsh with Junipers, 40″x40″, 2019.

 

Seaview Dusk, 18″x24″.

And this one, through Albert Shahinian Fine Art:

 

Path, 48″x40″.

Last but most definitely not least, I am teaching my color-mixing workshop remotely through the Woodstock School of Art, 10-11 am for four Mondays in July, starting July 6th. It has been an enjoyable challenge consolidating the information to fit into the time frame; the live-stream requirements and limitations; and to a lecture/demo rubric (as opposed to my usual conversational style). You can see more here:

 

CHRISTIE SCHEELE COLOR MIXING FOR PAINTERS ONLINE COURSE

 

 

If you are an artist who works with color, how would you mix these greens? Green is very complex because it is to begin with a secondary color, made up of blue and yellow. So, it can go toward the yellow or toward the blue; also toward the brown; and then there are tints, tones, and shades. The below doesn’t even go very brown or yellow, but you could still mix a palette with dozens of colors to capture the nuance.

 

 

Happy greens of summer!

A Large Commission/ Art in the Time of Coronavirus

In this post I will be documenting the planning, preparation, and creation of a 6’x8′ painting for returning clients through my Rhinebeck gallery, Albert Shahinian Fine Art.

The project has presented special challenges because of state restrictions imposed due to Covid-19. The planning began before our abrupt quarantines, and the piece was finished in late May, framed, and installed June 6th.

I met these folks at a reception at the gallery on February 15th. What followed was a  31 email chain discussing various possibilities for their beautiful, big wall:

 

 

They already had a good-sized marsh painting of mine, acquired from ASFA years ago when the gallery was located in Poughkeepsie:

 

 

A sea view was always the idea, either open sea or with Chatham sandbars or with big surf. I sent multiple jpegs with ideas and they sent me many others. It seemed that they liked several of the ideas and had to go through a process of narrowing down, until they honed in on their choice, a view of blue sea, sandbars, and Monomoy from a favorite bit of beach in Chatham, MA.

These were a few of my pieces that they were drawn to initially:

 

Carrying On, 6″x12″, oil on board.

 

Long Wave, 12″x48″.

 

Moving Clouds, 24″x48″.

In an email about 25 in, the clients were dialing in:

  • In the first attachment, Moving Clouds: we really like the way you have angled the beach in contrast to the horizon. We feel this will work well with your rendition of the CBI waterfront.  We also think that having a more active sky would be good, since the water is usually tranquil inside the bar.
  • The second attachment shows the near shore section of the beach that we hope you might be able to represent similar to the way you already mentioned, “show just a bit of beach, a simplified swath of beach grasses off to the right… And some sky interest.”  We would like to see more beach than grass though.  We recognized that you would not be painting  the scene exactly as is, and that is fine with us.  We are going for something that looks natural, but for those of us who know the area, we can easily imagine it as the same section of shoreline.
  • The third picture can be found at the following website. We really love the colors and contrast of the water and the nearshore beach, the middle bars, and the bright sand of the outer bar.  We are hoping you could incorporate these elements along with the above.

All of this made perfect sense, after the discussions that we had already had. And since all of it is also perfectly within a subject matter that I hold dear and in my signature style, I was more than happy with their choice. That it wasn’t a tweaked or reformatted version of something that I had done before made it exciting and fresh.

I was lucky with several of the logistics that could have proven difficult under quarantine. First, that I could have a stretcher made in the needed size through my Vermont custom stretcher-makers  Brickyard Enterprises—that they were healthy and willing and had the supplies. Next, that when I contacted Claussens linen in Belgium I was assured that the weight linen that I like to use —for its lovely slubbed surface–would be fine for a canvas of that size. Lastly, that I could get a porch drop-off delivery from Brickyard, since this canvas would not come even close to fitting in my Volvo wagon.

I always start a commission with a study, usually oil on paper and small, in the 8″x10″ range but to scale with the desired piece. Approval of the study is sought before moving forward. I agreed with the clients that the size of the painting called for a larger study, and when I realized that I had a 30″x40″ on hand , perfectly to scale with 6’x8′,  I suggested that we do a way bigger study…seemed to make sense with a way big painting.

 

The day before the delivery of the stretched canvas, the clients decided to come by for a porch-viewing of the 30″x40″ study, since they were having a hard time seeing the true colors from the jpeg. I was so glad that they did, since it put a few questions to rest, and they left very happy.

 

Canvas (with 30×40 study) in my studio awaiting a sunny day for priming.

Priming with my usual off-black gesso proved to be a challenge. I usually do this flat, but realized that I wouldn’t be able to reach the middle section that way, so I opted to prop it on the ground against a table that I use for various outdoor jobs. I wired the back of the stretcher to the sides of the table with picture wire so that the wind wouldn’t catch it, which turned out to be a wise precaution later in the day when the breeze picked up.

 

 

I positioned the canvas so that the sun didn’t hit the front, since the gesso goes on more smoothly if it stays damp.

The first coat is wettest and the last coat the thickest, following an oft-used maxim in painting, thick over thin. I sand lightly between coats, and even very lightly, at the end.

 

After the second coat. With the third, I also do the sides.

 

By the end of coat #3, five hours later, I was exhausted. Using a 5-inch house-painting brush, the gesso has to be thoroughly worked into the fibers of the linen, and quickly. The physical part was one thing—wrist and shoulder of my right arm, though I did try to use the left a bit—but the mental another altogether.

My understanding is that repetitive motion releases serotonin in the brain, something that we enjoy with, for example, running or walking. So maybe that explains the level of brain-dead that I felt at the end of the afternoon. It was unlike anything I had felt before, like I was stunned into absolute mental disfunction. You might think that this would be accompanied with euphoria, but it was not!

The next day, canvas back in my studio, I was not satisfied with the evenness of my priming job and, knowing that once I started painting I would be stuck with whatever it was, I did a forth spot- coat and some very careful sanding, and then got the canvas back up on my easel (with help…a two-person job).

Next up: mix a palette, making a range of blues, sand colors, and a few greens, and adding nice amounts of my wax medium for easy spreading on the absorbent gesso.

 

 

Establishing the horizon line was the first step in applying paint. For such a large canvas, it is hard to see proportion while working up close and impossible get a level line without measuring. I used, as I have before, a standard equation for proportion, in this case x is to 72″ (the height of my canvas) as 30″ is to 40″, the height and width of the study: and so I came up with the placement for the horizon and measured across a few times. The sea does need to be level at the horizon, gravity doing its work. Then eyeballing it, I decided I wanted it a little higher.

 

 

Many passages in the painting of this large version can and will be spontaneous and based upon a lot of coming forward to paint and backward to examine. But given how hard it is to see proportion while working up close, it has been very helpful to measure based on the study and not reinvent the wheel at every turn. I calculated that one inch of study is equal to 2.4″ in the large piece, and then deviated a bit where I saw fit as the painting evolved.

This clip of video catches a bit of the of the process:

 

The next week, a pic of the painting after one layer was completed:

 

 

The composition and all of the major shapes have been worked out, following what was established in the study and then shifted a bit where it felt natural to do so.

I add layers of paint to an area based on what, to my eye, needs brightening up. For this painting, it ended up being three to four layers, with the original dark gesso showing through very subtly to mitigate flatness. I am at heart a minimalist, so often less is more in terms of detail; but within each area there is a good deal of color shift and soft brush work.

Going up in size means more play in each area of color. For example, going from a swath of green salt grass on the outer bar an inch high in the 30″x40″,  to two and a half in the 6’x8′ gave me room to segue from varied warm greens (with quite a lot of white in them) above to some burnt reds at the edge of the sand. This created a visual link to the reds in the lighter sand colors, and also explores the warm green to warm red color-wheel interaction (think olive green to burnt sienna).

This is the final version, signed off on when the collectors visited for another yard viewing. You can see the difference in luminosity.

 

 

The way that I explain my version of minimalism is to point out that if you try to pack too many elements into a painting, it is hard to fully see and appreciate any of them. Further, the openness of large shapes and soft edges creates a strong composition that works with the image, or view, to invite contemplation.  In that way my pieces are very much about the painting as abstraction, while also expressing a strong sense of place.

Named Chatham Bars by the collectors, signed in front with my initials and labeled on the back with my name, title of the piece, medium, dimensions and date, the piece was ready for framing.  The final step in the whole process for me was to get the piece to my framer extraordinaire, Geoffrey Rogers, in Pine Hill. It’s a short hop from here, but still required hiring a mover, due to the size.

The clients had requested a walnut floater frame, so Geoff created his own molding, which he hand-finished. He suffered a broken collar-bone in the middle of the process after a bicycle mishap, so help from his son moved the project forward to completion. Here is the painting in the shop, awaiting pick up from Albert Shahinian.

 

 

I wasn’t there for the installation, which was carried off by Albert and another art installer that he brought on board, with help from the clients. As you can imagine, getting a large painting up on this wall was a process.

 

 

 

Chatham Bars, at home.

 

This project was particularly meaningful for me in the midst of staying home during the pandemic. It not only created a complex, multilayered point of focus for me, but also worked so beautifully as metaphor—a very large canvas of a particularly open and expansive view being created within a set of constraints unprecedented in our lifetime.

 

Special thanks to my husband Jack and son Tony, one of whom had to help with every out-into-the-sun and back into the studio later; each up-and-down from the easel to work different sections; and the final in and out of the truck for delivery to my framer. One day when unexpected dark clouds blew up and I was home alone, I managed to get it into the studio with no damage to myself or the painting…which made me appreciate all of the help even more.

Art and Life and Coronavirus: What Does it Mean?

So many folks are thoughtfully and often with great introspection finding meaning in the human experience of the pandemic. I have been doing my habitual undisciplined musing on that and almost anything/everything else, without creating the mental space necessary to really focus on the issue. All of the reminders to value what we have are lovely now as before, but I feel that there is something more here.

I know that any train of thought that I might develop matters little in this giant sea of change and pain. But one of the reasons that I started writing a blog about ten years ago was to bring a little form to my musings, teasing out something resembling conclusions from the mishmash.

I have been considering the twin truths of life being brutal and life being magnificent.

“Life is nasty, brutish, and short.”

I looked up this quote in Writing Explained to make sure that I had it right, and lo, look what I found in the explanation:

“This expression comes from the author Thomas Hobbes, in his work Leviathan, from the year 1651.

He believed that without a central government, there would be no culture, no society, and it would seem like all men were at war with one another.

  • In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation nor the use of commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

If this does not hit home in our present circumstances, I don’t know what does. As the federal government has been working for 3+ years to dismantle our government itself in favor of an oligarchy run by big money, it has also undermined the response to the virus, making life much, much nastier and shorter for many.

What is the antidote, on a personal level?

The question of what is magnificent is is almost self-evident, so let’s shift that to—what is meaningful?

IMG_9100

Magnificent!

For me, family, studio practice, yoga, nature, close friends, wider arts community. Now as before. I am incredibly fortunate that much of that is as accessible now as always, maybe more so.

The creative practice is huge, almost a living, breathing thing.

In person and physical contact with family, friends, and the wider community is where we feel our loss most keenly. In our far-flung life-style, many friendships were already carried forward through social media, phone, email, and/or some form of live streaming; but in those cases, we also often lamented the distance. Here, we can look to appreciate all of those forms of communication—just imagine if we didn’t have them!—and also soften into the anticipation of being unselfconsciously with others again.

For a discussion of living in the Catskills during the pandemic and on avoiding the grass-is-greener trap, follow this link to a recent short phone interview with Brett Barry or Silver Hollow Audio, who is producing a new podcast platform, Kaatscast (you may recognize him from WAMC’s Soundbeat).

 

 

As the virus has doubled down on our resources, we can only double down on what we love, exploring new possibilities and cherishing the ongoing ones that are possible, albeit sometimes in an altered fashion, in these times.

Note:

I started this post before the murder-by-cop of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the protests that have erupted around the nation in the past few days. Is it possible that we have finally had enough, that this is a defining moment in our nation? And is it possible that the pandemic has played some part in our determination to change the culture and address racism head-on, after seeing the larger number of deaths from Covid-19 in black and brown communities? Are we in fact stronger, having gained fresh perspective on what is important?

I am sharing a painful yet brilliant drawing by my friend Veronica Lawlor.

 

 

You can view her blog here:

http://www.veronicalawlor.com/

Building on what we have that we value most, this can be a moment of desperately needed change. If finally moving to reform the culture of a racist and violent police force comes out of this period, we will have significantly moved the dial forward in America.

Can we?

Art and Life in the Time of Coronavirus, May 12.

May 9: I  had thought to leave off posting until I complete my 6’x8′ commission and finish the blog description of the process, but find that I miss the diary.

Snow last night and today, actually quite dark and blizzardy at intervals this afternoon, alternating with sun flurries. It seems almost cruel that our spring is so delayed, when we crave the comfort of warm sunshine and a softer outdoor experience. For me, key to that is our screened-in back porch, my warm-season living room. A day in which I can have my siding door open to the porch and take my meals and do my online work out there is a good day .

But, while cringing on behalf of my snowy flowers and leafed-out plantings today, it popped into my mind that this weather might have its uses in slowing the spread of the virus. Warm days have brought with them prematurely reckless behavior. So maybe this prolonged chill will allow the curve to turn from its current level to downward, and save a few lives.

The news is not good at all and makes me despair about human idiocy, American and otherwise. So I unashamedly grasp at straws.

May 10th:

On this Mother’s Day, the first without our mom, I am fortunate to be doing the things that I have always chosen on this spring day in which I feel free to pamper myself. Sometimes the weather has been 45 and rainy and put a damper on my busy-in-the-yard plans, and yesterday’s snow would have been the kicker…but today we have partly sunny and in the 5os.

Ordinarily, I would have gone to Oneonta with my sister Carla yesterday, the Saturday before Mother’s Day, to have lunch and a nursery visit for hanging pots and annuals with our mom. I always brought flowers from my yard on every visit from April through October.

 

Mother’s Day bouquet from 2019, in the front seat of my car.

 

And later in the season, another.

When we finally scatter her ashes in multiple places, I hope it is during the growing season so that I can include some flowers.

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The crumbling world around us cries out for help…socorro, socorro! I can only think in small, manageable bits about it, or it threatens hopelessness that sabotages action. So, to begin somewhere, I created a fundraiser last week in collaboration with Albert Shahinian Fine Art. I  offered to give a small collage from the eleven left at the gallery after an environmental fundraiser last fall to anyone who sent me a receipt for a donation of at least $40 to a food bank of their choosing. They all were spoken for very quickly and we raised about $500. Albert sent them all out a few days ago from the gallery.

Just a start. I’ll be thinking of more, and ASFA is on board for more collaborating. I do like to use my art to raise money because it is my ready resource that folks value. These little pieces went mostly to prior collectors and a few to a student or mentee not in a position to buy a market-priced piece. I used only social media so for the next thing could readily access my best outreach resource, which is my mailing list.

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I am also involved in a fundraiser for the Island Food Bank on Martha’s Vineyard through my gallery there, the Louisa Gould Gallery. Her shows this spring and summer are an opt-in for gallery artists to join her in donating 10% of sales for food security, with every dollar raised going for $7 worth of food.

We just made a nice sale of these two pieces, accomplished through shipping, as the gallery has not yet reopened.

 

Chillmark View, 40″x40″, 2019.

 

Summer Inlet, 48″x24″, 2019.

Here is a link to the current online show of new work at the gallery:

https://www.louisagould.com/exhibitions/2241/1/BENEFIT_Art_Show_for_Food_Pantry.html

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My big studio project continues to be the 6’x8′ commissioned version of this 30″x40″. I am creating an in-depth description of the process for an upcoming blog post.

 

Largest “study” I have ever done—and in fact, a fully realized smaller version of the large piece.

 

Stay healthy, y’all, and let’s keep each other safe!