After all the fuss and bother – lost emails, language barriers, and impossibility to communicate – the spirit of art and urban sketching prevailed. “Matite in Viaggio” exhibition opened in Venice Itally yesterday, October 10, 2014. Five of my drawings are showing there!
Here they are in the covered exhibition table – photo on the left. And here they are in the exhibition catalog along with my b&w photo and what seems to be a blurb of text – photo on the right. I wish I remembered what I wrote, and can only hope it is not too embarrassing.
And I almost missed this whole excitement because I could not go, which sucked. But a friend was there and took these photos ( photos © NotNot Tana Luc). Thanks, Luc!!
I am way overdue posting new sketches. I’ve been very busy painting and did not have much time for sketching or posting sketches. Now is a good time to catch up.
In December Urban Sketchers Chicago went to investigate the new Logan Art Center in Hyde Park. It turned out to be a wonderful building with spectacular views on Hyde Park, University of Chicago and even the lake from its glassed terraces on 8th and 9th floors. On the other hand the Center is so new it set my teeth on edge. It smells fresh cement dust.
When I called to check if Urban Sketchers can come and draw there, the event manager recommended the Penthouse views from 8th floor. Then he added that to rent the Penthouse for a group use would cost us $1000. That was pretty funny, and after we chuckled over it, he suggested that we just come and sketch in the Penthouse if it is available, and leave when someone arrives to use it. This strategy worked well. The brick gabled building in the sketch is a view down from the Penthouse. After an hour of drawing some people indeed arrived to set up a show, so we went down to a cafe on the first floor.
The cafe offered a moody and pleasant view on Midway Plaisance – all gray and misty in December afternoon. I’ve never sketched a landscape before and cars are still an unfamiliar business to me. I decided to be brave and try new things. The cars came out a bit wonky and cartoonish I think, but overall effect is kinda nice.
Here’s us in the Logan Art Center cafe with Midway Plaisance behind us:
Skansen is an amazing open air museum. The sheer size of it is mind-blowing – 75 acres – one of the largest in the world. Just the entrance itself is so beautiful that I had to stop and take a breath. And sketch. The small figure with a backpack was meant to be Lou, my husband, added later for scale.
Inside the experience just gets better and better. A small 19th century Swedish town is situated on a hill. Shops, a post office, an inn, a church (kyrka), a couple of farms with goats and pigs, businesses, a tobacco-growing patch, all complete with shopkeepers and artisans in traditional dress doing the work, showing skills, talking about history and answering questions in multiple languages.
The people working there really impressed me – they looked so authentic, their faces (if not modern dental work) really belonged to the time. So I asked a young woman combing wool (in the sketch above) whether they were actors type casted. She explained to me that people working these jobs are not actors, but are historians and researchers working for the museum. Their duties also include educating the public by doing and demonstrating.
This Stockholm adventure was turning out pretty awesome, not withstanding a hotel room the size of a matchbox. But it reached a new height on August 19 when I met with Nina Johansson to sketch in Gamla Stan – the Old Town.
This is Nina in the sketch! We found this little passageway where we could reach the opposite walls if we extended our arms to the sides. We hoped we would not be disturbed by hordes of tourists. We were wrong. Apparently this was a very important alley and FOUR tours traipsed over us in half an hour we spent there. They were VERY excited to find us there and took numerous photos of us. Two of the tours were English speaking, one Russian, and one – unfamiliar language.
One of the tour guides shared that she lives here in Gamla Stan. The basement of her building is very old indeed – 12th century. Her actual building is much more modern – 1600’s. Just imagine! From another tour guide I learned that this alley – Skeppar Olofs – was already built in 1587, that’s the first known mention of it in the records. It was named after captain Olof who was an important figure in Swedish Navy.
The reason Nina and I only had a half an hour in Skeppar Olofs Grand was that we were meeting Ed Harker at Stortorget – the Big Square. Ed is a sketcher from Bath, England. It turned to be a truly international sketch-meet. We had a great time sitting in a cafe and sketching Stortorget. My view was Swedish Academy and Nobel Museum – the very place where they decide the Nobel prizes every year since 1901.
Stockholm is one of the very few European cities that did not get bombed into oblivion during WWII. The old buildings and stone paved streets are still there, intact for centuries, they can take you back in time like a time machine. Many date back to 1600’s, with some going as far back as 12th century.
I sketched this sitting in a cafe on the intersection of three streets, Norra Bankogrand is the street in the sketch. It leads to the piers, there between the buildings, and Baltic sea.
Stockholm has a different palette than any other city I’ve been to. It is all painted in natural earth colors. I heard this is a city ordinance of some sort. So I found myself using a lot of yellow ochre, sienna and umber. And my favorite – Palette Gray.
I was sitting in this cafe with my coffee and my sketchbook, working on my drawing, and somehow this made people think that I was local. I was asked directions, lol. In one case a family talking to me happened to be from Chicago, and we had a little laugh about it. Amazingly, I did know – this once – how to get where they wanted to go.
I have just come back! Stockholm is amazing!
But let me start from the beginning. About a year ago The Husband was invited to present at Stockholm University. The topic – Empathy – was his specialty, and of course he said yes. I too said “But of course!” meaning that I was going too, and surprised him only a little.
Now, a year later, we are just back having spent 11 days in Stockholm. And what a tour that was! I will try to tell the story with my sketches.
SAS airline surprised us by being unusually on time! In the last 10 years I don’t remember anything starting or ending at the promised time where air travel was concerned! The second surprise was that the food was almost edible. Still, there were some peculiarities – strange raggedy curtains between classes (we of course flew the “chopped liver” class.)
This is Södertörn högskola – South Stockholm University – where The Husband was a keynote speaker. This giant amazing bazalt rock is the centerpiece of the campus. The conference “What is Empathy and what do we need it for?” was multidisciplinary, which means that, while it was overrun by philosophers, there were also psychiatrists, psychologists, psychoanalysts, people with the whole alphabet after their names and one artist.
The title of my husband’s talk was “A Heideggerian Approach to Empathy: Befindlichkeit is not Enough.” You can read it again, I’ll wait. But it would not make any more sense than the first time. The talk however was amusing and very entertaining, he made me laugh. I skipped the rest of the presentations (they spent three days convincing each other that empathy is important and we ought to have more of it.) Instead I went sketching, which was the whole point of going to Stockholm.
I have more sketches, but as I am learning any sketching expedition comes with after the show part: sketches have to be tagged, dated, locations cleared, text added where needed, pages cleaned, color corrected or added. Then all need to be scanned and filed. So I will be showing more sketches of Stockholm in subsequent posts until I run out sketches or out of patience, whichever comes first.
It really is not as exciting as it sounds. Nice – yes, in summer. Interesting – sometimes. Exciting – not really.
I live in Edgewater, a neighborhood of Chicago. Our Chamber of Commerce came out with this brilliant line, and now you can see it on posters and flags everywhere. I see it all the time when I am out sketching. It gave me an idea of series of sketches – Living on the Edge. Here are a few:
Out of the Starbucks window, looking at the historic buildings on Bryn Mawr & Winthrop
The Secret Garden. In the gardens of the Pink Building. I live in the neighborhood for 18 years and have never been inside these gardens until last week. You have to know a resident to take you in.
The Church of Atonement, at the side entrance. A beautiful old church a block away from my house. Even has a table there to spread your sketchbook, pens and palette – heaven, really.
Another historic building – art deco this time – on Bryn Mawr and Winthrop, different corner. Also sketched out of Starbucks, ______________________it was too cold to be ______________________outside.
These are all done on location, Urban Sketchers style, as quickly as I can draw. Which is not very fast at all – one to one-and-a-half hours each.
Hope to show you more of my Chicago as I sketch it.
Israel for me starts with Meyer. His is the face I see first when I arrive. For several years now he meets me in Ben Gurion International and takes me home. Meyer is a taxi driver.
I bet you don’t have a private taxi driver, do you? Well, I don’t either, but my parents do. About 10 years ago my parents got into Meyer’s cab by chance, and they liked each other all the way around. And what’s not to like – Meyer has a sunny disposition, amazing energy, a wonderful warm manner and a dickens sense of humor. From that day on my parents rarely called a general taxi line, they call Meyer. And when the airport and the roads got rebuilt and became as complicated as Rubik’s Cube, it became too hard for them to drive to the airport. So Meyer comes and gets me instead. Every year I look forward to seeing him.
9″ x 11.5″ (22 x 29 cm) watercolor on paper
Several people wrote to me via comments here and email asking about the technique for background in this portrait. So I am adding this description. I used splattering technique, I read about it in a couple of watercolor books. I wanted to try it here because I wanted a sense of desert to connect Meyer to his country. Israel is 70% desert, and even though I took this reference in a lush and green little park where my parents live I thought that the connection was called for.
I started with overall light wash of Aureolin (PY40) covering the entire sheet, the face, shirt and BG. Then I put a wash of Yellow Ochre (PY43) covering the BG but also bleeding into skin and hair. I use Daniel Smith colors, and Daniel Smith Yellow Ochre is the most sumptuous Yellow Ochre I have seen. Then I developed the face and shirt almost to completion but not quite. I made a mask for the face and body from a piece of tracing paper and attached it loosely in 3 or 4 places with dots of masking fluid. Having placed the painting horizontally I covered the outer portions of my board with newspaper (you don’t have to do this, I am just anal-retentive like that.) Then the fun began.
I prepared five cups of concentrated paint making it a consistency of heavy cream. I used the same colors as I used in the painting for the skin and shirt in hope to unify the painting and achieve color harmony. I actually put a bit more thought into choosing my BG colors and they were all natural Earths – siennas, umbers and ferrites. I tested my toothbrush and colors on a scrap paper to figure out the size of my droplets and their trajectory. When I liked what I saw on a scrape paper I started on the actual painting. I splattered one color at a time and let colors dry for various times, a little or a lot, without much thought or plan. I wanted to achieve a controlled randomness (now that’s an oxymoron!) Then I checked the tone and decided it was too warm, so I added some Manganese Blue (PB15) splatter, also a natural mineral color and a color from his shirt, which was not in the prepared set of 5. Waited until everything was bone dry and lifted the mask.
I saw that some splatter got onto the face, so I lifted that and cleaned it up. In another small area my mask covered too much and there was a bald spot, so I added spots of needed colors with a brush imitating splatter.
Then I finished the face that needed more punch now that the BG got darker, painted flyaway hair and details on the glasses. Done.
I met Odelia in Israel, in Netanya. She served us coffee in our favorite coffee place Shvil HaHalav, the Milky Way. As soon as I saw her I knew I had to paint her – an amazing beauty that she was, exotic and mischievous.
Explaining this to her was a different matter. My Hebrew is very rudimental, and Odelia’s English was not at the level of discussing matters of art. But my mom came to the rescue. With her machine gun Hebrew, taking no prisoners attitude, and general charm – the outcome was guaranteed. I was so lucky to have such an interpreter and advocate of my art. And then I got lucky yet again – the blistering Mediterranean sun gave me a gorgeous play of light and shadow, an opportunity to try chiaroscuro in watercolor.
To say that painting this was difficult would be an understatement. It took nearly 5 weeks, but part of this time I spent in misery, away from my brushes, because I was stuck, didn’t know what to do, contemplated my lack of talent and considering taking on cross-stitching instead of painting. But I wanted to finish more than I wanted to feel sorry for myself, and so I did.
8.5″ x 11.5″ (21.5 x 30 cm) watercolor on paper
This is Russ. Russ is a massage therapist, and he is a magician. Russ works at the Space Time Tanks center with Eric, and I simply love him. One hour on his table can cause a person to have a different outlook – life is pretty good after all!
I am on the other side of the pond, visiting family in Israel. Everything is great here – sun and flowers and 70 degrees weather, but I haven’t mastered local hardware yet, and so my image is somewhat different from the real portrait. But I want to post it anyway, so you all know that I didn’t fall off the face of the Earth and am still painting and continuing with the Community Portrait series.
11″ x 8.5″ (28 x 22 cm) watercolor on paper