Sunday, May 4, 2014

Messy Met

Messy Outside: Last Thursday I went into the city to attend an opening at Debra Force Fine Art. As this didn't begin until 6 pm, I decided to make a day of it and spend the afternoon at the Met. It's been at least a year since I visited the Metropolitan Museum. As I approached 5th Avenue on the hike from the subway stop at 86th and Lex, I was surprised to see the mess outside--construction barriers covered with yards of colorful messages printed on cloth banners assuring passersby that the Met is still open as they overhaul the area in front of the museum. Once inside, I found it as cool and organized as always. I had no plans to see a specific show. Mainly, I was seeking guidance for a painting I'm working on that only the old masters could provide.

Green: I was especially interested in seeing how artists working in a detailed manner controlled the color green. My new piece, Circus Summer, includes a suburban lawn and shrubbery that covers at least 1/3 of the surface. Green is difficult to control and can be really icky. How green was green? How neutral could I make it and still have it read as green. How strong could I make it without overpowering the figures? First I encountered this Death of the Virgin by Vivarini--an artist and work with which I was not familiar. The green landscape in the background stayed in the background. I needed that to happen in my work.

Pink and Blue: Then I encountered a Birth of the Virgin by Fra Carnevole, which I photographed not for its use of green, but for it's combination of pink and blue. I'm going to keep this in mind as I work out the colors for the costumes of my piece, Circus Summer (more about that in future posts). The blue here is so dominating. The use of lapis lazuli was proof that no expense was spared in the execution of this work. The blue is certainly beautiful but I find it distracting. Come to think of it, the Death of the Virgin is also a study in pink and blue.

Barriers: Since my last visit, the European painting galleries had been totally refurbished--including new cord barriers around all of the walls which I found incredibly annoying. I could no longer lean in to see the detail work in the paintings without risking falling into them. They placed at exactly the right distance to prevent me from seeing clearly with or without my glasses. I will have to resort to binoculars next time.

Treasure in a Darkened Room: Of all the beautiful works I saw--old friends and new finds--I was totally blown away by a multimedia piece I literally stumbled upon. That was William Kentridge's Refusal of Time. I sat mesmerized in a darkened room for the better part of an hour and left only when they herded us out because the museum was closing. The room was large and dark. There were chairs scattered about so we could sit. There were 5 large movie screens--2 on the side walls and 1 in the front. Sometimes film images were duplicated on all or some screens. Sometimes images were projected as a continuum and progressed around the room from screen to screen. Sometimes there were complementary images on each screen. There was music and sound. All the while, a kinetic wooden sculpture moved in the center of the room moved back and forth like a beating heart or an atomic clock. There was history, time, sound, images--both representational and totally abstract, both politically charged and aesthetically driven. Anyone who has any interest in video, film, or mixed media has to see this piece. I can't describe it--I'm sure the Met can describe this new acquisition better than I. Better yet, go see it before it closes on May 11.

Spot Red
James Jebusa Shannon
Farther Downtown: By the time I left the museum, it was late afternoon. My final stop would be Debra Force Fine Art, located on 69th Street between Fifth and Madison. I took a leisurely stroll down Fifth Avenue along the edge of Central Park to see this show of portraits and other works by the little-known contemporary of Sargent and Whistler, James Jebusa Shannon. Seeing these sumptuous works in the drawing room like setting afforded by Debra Force Fine Art was a treat. I worked for Debra in the 1980s when she was corporate art director for Cigna Corp. A specialist in American art, her fine establishments focuses on American Art of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. She and her staff research and mount thought provoking exhibitions of famous and lesser known artists. We can learn so much from their work.

Afterwards, I strolled down Fifth Avenue to the 53rd Street E train station, and was on a Red Bank-bound North Jersey Coast Train by 7:30.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Unexpected Outcome on a Dark and Rainy Night

Woman with Pink Headbband
8 x 5" watercolor
Sometimes you don't know what the day will bring--or the night. Today is Wednesday. Each Wednesday night from 8 to 10, I join a dozen fellow artists at the Art Alliance Gallery in Red Bank to share the space, chatter, and a model and paint or draw for 2 hours. Except on the last Wed of each month when this coop gallery is receiving art for the next month's show. Then, if I have a submission, I arrive early to fill out the paperwork to submit my piece to the jury.

Tonight I got there in plenty of time--put out my little work table and chair to secure a spot where I would get a good reflection of the model in the large studio mirror (reflections make for deeper space and much more interesting compositions). Then I submitted my piece--two small watercolors done on prior Wednesday nights.

 Lo and behold, 8 o'clock rolled around and there was no model. We milled about. Hemmed and hawed. When it was established that there was a bona fide mix up and the model was just not late, I stepped up to the plate and sat for the group. As a young woman I had worked as a professional model and so knew how to strike a good pose. I'm just not as young as I once was so holding the pose was a bit tough. It was funny to be back up on the stand hearing the conversation around me. Attendance was light as it was raining buckets and everyone seemed to find a vantage point that pleased their sense of design.

As I sat there, frozen in place, I worked out the strategy for the new egg tempera piece I'm going to start on Friday. Will I sponge on colors? Which ones? Will I make a mask? Of the figures? How will I keep the green of the large expanse of lawn from overpowering the piece? All of this ran through my head against the backdrop of brushes scratching canvases, charcoal on paper.

This was not the way I had expected the night to play out. But it was good. Everyone quit by 9:30. By that time, the juror was done selecting the work for the show. One piece got in and one didn't. So if you are around Red Bank this Saturday night, stop by the gallery from 6 to 8 PM and check out my little watercolor, Woman with Pink Headband. There'll be lots of other interesting art, people, and snacks.

I wrapped up the rejected painting in bubble wrap and plastic to protect it from the downpour and plunged out into the rain.


 www.eileen-kennedy.com

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

Happy New Year. Here I am implementing yet another news year's resolution--don't neglect my blog. Pretty pathetic after a more than 2-year hiatus. Actually, today I start a pretty scary adventure. As of today, (with a little help from Obama-care) I am no longer officially employed full-time. In an attempt to de-stress my life and spend the 20 years I have left doing what I love, I have taken a part-time job with a local non-profit (I can walk to work!)so I can do an amazing thing--actually sell my art. Who would have thought. Of course, I've just spent my last paid vacation getting over the flu. Even so, I've managed to gather all of the elements needed to put up an Etsy shop, which will go live some time over the next 2 weeks. I've also tried to reach my other 2013 goal, which was to complete my egg tempera painting, Wetlands. It doesn't look like I'm going to make it, but I'm might close. I started this in August, after I learned to make my own gessoed panels at Koo Schadler's workshop in New Hampshire. It's getting mighty close. Wishing you a creative and surprising 2014.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wednesday Completed on Monday


Finally, I have completed a new painting. Called Wednesday, I finished it on Monday of the Columbus Day weekend but have been on the go ever since and have not had a chance to post it. This is 19" H X 30" W in egg tempera. I think I'll be working on a few smaller pieces after this so that I can try a few techniques I learned (or had reinforced) at Koo Schadler's workshop in August. If you aren't familiar with her work, check it out at www.kooschadler.com.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Every Day is Wednesday


Before my last piece (Nautilus) was even completed, I was already working on a new piece that took a really long time to gel. Is it old age that images no longer just pop into my head? Or just proof of the fallicy of multitasking?

In any event,Wednesday was initially a real struggle--countless thumbnails in my sketchbook, on the proverbial napkin in restaurants, and even in meeting notes at the office. I had a vague concept in my head--which is not the best way to create art. I also had segments of images. I needed a human subject but didn't want to resort to another self-portrait. I wanted a new challenge but was concered about the fact that, while improving, I still don't really have completed control of the egg tempera medium down yet. That could also be a good thing.

Then, in a blinding flash it dawned on me--why not ask my neice to pose. We had a great time doing a photo shoot. In a happy accident, her new kitten, Lucy, wandered onto our set and added another dimension. Here you can see a prelimary study and the final drawing in a near completed state.

Wedesday is about sequence, seriality, and the passage of time--as well as notions of obscuring and revealing images needed to advance the narrative as well as to explore more fully the process of working in egg tempera. In this medium you build a painting from many veils of color and paint--sometimes obscuring and sometimes revealing. This work is both a metaphor and a demonstration of that process. Time will tell how successful that will be. I was brought back to the need to work in a "multiple" format while executing my piece, A Meditation on the Stations of the Cross, completed in 2008. Then I saw the Chuck Close printmaking retrospective in DC last summer and this need was cemented in my brain.

This is the largest piece I have attempted in this medium and to keep from going insane will be incorporating techniques learned from Koo Schadler (check out her site at www.kooschadler.com) as well as suggestions gleaned from Robert Vickrey's book, New Techniques in Egg Tempera. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nautilus


Finally, another painting finished--Nautilus, portrait of my son Thomas and an homage to George Tooker--after his self portrait done as a young man. This painting was a struggle. About 4 months in I felt I had lost control of the flesh tones in the shadow side of the face and sanded off several layers of paint. The paint did not come off smoothly and took a long time to fill back in. In the end I am pleased. It is better than the last painting, although scale still presents problems. I found working at this scale--about 3/4 life size--difficult. This is mostly due to vision problems. At this scale, I spend much of my painting time wearing a magnifying headpiece reminiscent of the father in Honey I Shrunk the Kids searching for the miniaturized children lost in the lawn. I'm already on to the next piece. Will have a drawing to show shortly. Ta.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Watercolor Wednesdays


A few months ago I felt the need for a change of pace in my Wednesday night drawing sessions so I shifted from creating large, detailed pencil or charcoal drawings to small watercolors. It engages different skills and brain functions--and delivers some very different results. I was in a rut and now I'm not. In the studio, we have the benefit of a large mirror behind the model stand and, if the curtains are opened, we can create compositions of some depth--including all of the artists working on the other side of the room. The image of "Debbie" at the top of the page was particularly juicy--the lavendar chair was a wonderful foil for the black and white stripes of her garments accented with red lipstick and watch.

"Susan" was painted in Joyce U's garden before we all sat down to the sumptuous annual "linguini supper."

All of these works are painted in a small (6X10") watercolor pad with my miniature Windsor & Newtown travel set. The paintbox measures only 3 X 4 inches. I spent about 1-1/2 hours on each, accounting for breaks. The works were small enough to scan -- you can see the fairly rough tooth of the paper.

Finally, here are two images of "Bernadine" painted about 1 month apart. One relied more heavily on the pencil drawing than the other. I have found it so freeing to work in an unfamiliar medium in which I have no particular skill or experience. The immediacy provides a welcome relief from the rigor of the egg tempera works that occupy the rest of my time.