Monthly Archives: April 2009

My Trip to Pennsylvania, Part Two

As on every vacation of mine, I was intent on visiting as many art museums and galleries as possible. Before I flew out of Milwaukee, Josephine and I visited the Milwaukee Art Museum to see the Jan Lievens Exhibit. Jan Lievens was a Dutch painter,
a contemporary and friend of Rembrandt (who modeled for him). Although equally successful in his time, he was long in Rembrandt’s shadow because their painting styles were so similar at one point in their careers, a number of Lievens’ paintings were attributed to Rembrandt. They were both among the Utrecht Caravaggisti, Dutch painters who trained in Rome and adopted the unidealized realism and dramatic lighting of Caraveggio. Lievens was original in his compositions and painted in a variety of genres. Later in his life, he was invited to London to paint with Van Dyke. His paintings became more elegant — he even adopted the typical Van Dyke pose — as can be seen in this self-portrait from that period.

Julie and I visited the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where we toured the home and studio of N.C. Wyeth. The Museum houses a collection of three generations of Wyeths: N.C., Andrew and Jamie, as well as paintings by N.C.’s mentor, Howard Pyle, and a permanent collection of 19th Century landscapes of the Brandywine area.

On another day we took the train to Phillie to see the Philadelphia Art Museum, which is noted for the monumental Thomas Eakins paintings, the Gross Clinic and the Agnew Clinic. I particularly enjoyed the Moorish Chief by Eduard Charlemont and the Annunciation by Henry Tanner. There is also the Trompe l’Oile Staircase Group by Charles Wilson Peale and the dramatic Life Line by Winslow Homer. These paintings are all magnificent and seeing them with my own eyes underscores the absolute truth that artwork must be seen in person to understand why the experience is impossible to duplicate in reproduction. It is so important to visit museums and galleries to view the actual works as often as possible.

In this Post I’m showing pictures of the lovely creek that flows next to Julie and Tim’s home — there is the constant sound of flowing water…heavenly — and Julie and I walking on the beach at Cape May, New Jersey.

I also discovered an impressive wildlife artist named Laura Mark-Finberg in Lancaster. On my final morning in Pennsylvania, Julie modeled for me as Circe. More on that to come!

On my finalPosted by Picasa

My Trip to Pennsylvania, Part One

I’ve been in Pennsylvania this week, visiting one of my oldest friends,
Julie Good-Kruger (or Julaine Emile, as I more frequently think of her — it was her pen name in our enthusiastic correspon- dence). We were in Oxford, England together as Juniors from Saint Olaf College, as was also my friend, Josephine (see Plein Air Painting at Perry Creek, April 21 Post). We lived together afterward in Northfield, MN, as we finished our degrees in Classics. Julie had spent an extra year in Oxford and dreamed of financing a second degree there by making porcelain artist dolls. She never did that degree, but she was a successful doll artist for years (see Good-Kruger Dolls). I lived with her and her husband, Tim, again for four months in Pennsylvania before I was married, where I learned the process for making original porcelain dolls. After I married Matt, I too became a doll artist for four years, originally with my cousin, Caryn, as business partner, under the business name, Maattala Artist Dolls. Maattala was the Finnish maiden name of both our mothers.

Julie now owns and runs Inglenook Tile, a company that makes brick tiles for interior and exterior use.

In the pictures you see Julie and her daughter, Kristina, in Lancaster’s Historic Market. Below that is the 18th century mill, Julie and Tim bought and restored.

To the right is Lorna Doone, the last Maattala Artist Doll I made , after Caryn left the business to raise her children.

Posted by Picasa

Plein Air Painting at Perry Creek, Day Two

To the right is my first plein -air pain- ting at the end of the second day. I’m planning on returning later in the summer, when the colors of the foliage are present, to work on it further.

I finished the afternoon at the falls further upstream. I began the second painting by painting much more thinly. As you can see from the photograph, there is a large flat rock obscuring my view of the water below the falls, but I’ve decided to remove it in the painting. I didn’t get that far on this painting, but I like my start better and look forward to returning.
Plein-air pain- ting along a pretty stream with the con- stant sound of the flowing water and no bugs, especially with a friend along to while away the time in conversation and reading aloud, has to be one of the pleasantest possible ways to spend an afternoon.

And we didn’t pick up a single tick…..

Posted by Picasa

Plein Air Painting at Perry Creek, Day One continued

The light is, of course, con- stantly chan- ging. I knew from my previous visit that 2:00 was the optimal time for my first set-up location. By 4:30 the light had changed the scene completely, so I knocked off at that point. I’ve posted the canvas after two hours of painting.

After that, Josephine and I went for a walk up stream. There was another spot, shown below with me sitting on a big flat rock, that I wanted to paint on the following day. It is almost entirely in shadow until about 4:00, so I planned to go there after I’d spent the earlier part of the afternoon at my first set-up location.

The rock ledge at the bottom of my painting at the end of the first day appears disconcertingly upright in the painting. I would have to do some- thing about that. Also, the tree on the left would benefit by being narrow- er. That way, I could brush in a little more water on the left side of it.

I’m not very experienced in plein-air painting and am no doubt making all the possible mistakes one can make. I chose a detail of the landscape that I found particularly lovely: I could look through the clear water at the rocks, ledges and ripples of sand that lay at the bottom. Also the rock ledge invited me to scramble down the steep bank and get close to the water. The psychological invitation in that appealed to me. (I did in fact scramble down the bank on the following day, because my camera lens cap rolled down the embankment and fell into the stream, and I had to retrieve it.)

By focusing on this detail of the landscape, however, I’ve made it a challenge for the viewer to orient himself. The hillock upon which I’m standing isn’t in the picture, nor is the extension of the ledge that creates the near bank of the stream. That is why the rock ledge appears to “thrust upward” rather than “lie along.”

The adjustments I made to the composition will show on my Blog for Day Two.

Posted by Picasa

Plein Air Painting at Perry Creek, Day One

Last weekend, April 12, Matt and Geneia and I went for a walk along Perry Creek in Black River Falls, WI, on a visit to my mom’s. I noticed a couple of places I’d like to come and paint. So, when the weather turned out to be so beautiful during the middle of the following week, I decided to go back with my plein-air easle. I asked my close friend, Josephine, if she’d like to go with me, so we drove up on Wednesday and got out to the Creek about 2:00.
I began, as I usually do by drawing in Cadmium Red, as Red is absorbed by other paint easily and tends not to tint the subsequent layers unduly. (Admittedly, this is not my sexiest look!) We tucked our pants into our socks to discourage the deer ticks and sprayed the pant lets with Off. Josie ensconced herself in a lawn-chair recliner with a sun-hat and a bag of books. She read me extracts from Vasari’s Lives of the Artists about Titian and Botticelli.

Posted by Picasa

Orpheus Photoshoot

This past training season at Lands’ End, I serendiptiously ended up training a small group of artists. We thought it was great fun that we were all involved in one aspect or other of the Arts. We had a graphic artist, Gina, who has subsequently done work for me, creating my ads of the Mineral Point Visitors Guide and the Uplands Magazine; Marcus, who is an actor with American Players Theatre and just this past season played Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Larry, who plays with a classic rock band named Reboot, and (I just learned) played trumpet with the Madison Symphony Orchestra for several years.

We’ve just purchased a new computer, which was preventing me from blogging until my daughter figured out why. At last the problem is resolved, so now I can post a few pictures from our photoshoot last Friday for the painting of Orpheus I’m currently working on.

I asked Larry to pose as Orpheus the Rocker. My daughter, Iphigeneia, posed as his girlfriend, Euridice.

See next blog for the painting in progress. Here’s a poem about Orpheus by Sir Robert Sitwell:


WHEN Orpheus with his wind-swift fingers

Ripples the strings that gleam like rain,

The wheeling birds fly up and sing,

Hither, thither echoing;

There is a crackling of dry twigs,

A sweeping of leaves along the ground,

Fawny faces and dumb eyes

Peer through the fluttering screens

That mask ferocious teeth and claws

Now tranquil.

As the music sighs up the hill-side,

The young ones hear,

Come skipping, ambling, rolling down,

Their soft ears flapping as they run,

Their fleecy coats catching in the thickets,

Till they lie, listening, round his feet.

Unseen for centuries,

Fabulous creatures creep out of their caves,

The unicorn Prances down from his bed of leaves,

His milk-white muzzle still stained green

With the munching, crunching of mountain-herbs.

The griffin, usually so fierce,

Now tame and amiable again,

Has covered the white bones in his secret cavern

With a rustling pall of dank dead leaves,

While the salamander, true lover of art,

Flickers, and creeps out of the flame;

Gently now, and away he goes,

Kindles his proud and blazing track Across the forest,

Lies listening,

Cools his fever in the flowing waters of the lute.

But when the housewife returns,

Carrying her basket,

She will not understand.

She misses nothing,

Hears nothing.

She will only see

That the fire is dead,

The grate cold.

But the child upstairs,

Alone, in the empty cottage,

Heard a strange wind, like music,

In the forest,

Saw something creep out of the fire.

Posted by Picasa

Joanne’s Signature Cream Cake

This is a commissioned painting of a very lush cake indeed, which you can buy for dessert at Gundry and Gray on High Street in Mineral Point. I recommend it.

I was hoping to have begun working by now on the “Tunnel” painting I mentioned in my last Blog, but the weather here in Wisconsin has turned cold, windy and wet once more. Good days for studio work. I am opening my Studio and Gallery up to the public from May to October, regularly on Thursdays and often on other days, including some weekends — the gate will open and the Open Sign hung, so please stop in.

This year I plan to do more large pieces, so I will be blogging progress reports. I’m exploring myths and romances with a modern twist. Remember to check back.

Here’s a poem by Cynthia Fuller:

Today you grasped
the stars as
they were slipping off
the edge of my horizon
and shook them back
into the sky.

You are
can leave me

My skin is alive
with the soft imprint
of your mouth.
How many miracles
can there be?

As I burnt your letters
the pages spread and curled
like fire roses.

Joanne’s Cream Cake, 6×6, Oil on Canvas, Commissioned

Posted by Picasa