The Duke of Manchester

Milo at Home

So, what are we going to do now?

This is Milo.  He has been living with me ever since my granddaughter brought him home about three years ago.  He is one of five cats living with me.  I have the Diva aka Isis The White Goddess, Blue the Fearless Scientist who is also King of his domain, a timid little bit of fluff called Grace who modeled for my gigantic portrait of her (Nap, Interrupted), and the Elder Stateman called Freckles, now 13  years old.  Milo has lately inspired more paintings that the rest of them altogether.

The first painting of Milo shows him with his pal Blue the Explorer, in a piece I call “Partners in Crime”.  Blue is on top; Milo, on bottom.

2. Partners in Crime

The next Milo picture is this full head shot, which I later had  transferred by Fine Art America to a pillow for said Granddaughter, who left it behind when she moved out.  Granddaughters of a certain age care only about their social network and their appearance.

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Milo picture no. 3 is the regal pose I opened with.  Milo is a cool cat, alert but relaxed.  He is always looking at me, checking out my reaction, hoping for a lap to snuggle in.  When he finds such a lap, he purrs and becomes very hard to dislodge.  Milo does have a flaw, however.  He likes to chase the girls (Diva and Grace) and make them cry.  Well, Isis caterwauls and Grace hides.

Finally, I made up a series featuring Milo.  The idea (not mine actually but my teacher Peter Dixon’s) was to use the same reference photo for 3 to 5 different paintings, forcing myself to employ different techniques for each one.  All were to be Oil paintings sized 9×12, but the treatments were to be unusual, new and untried by me.  The first three are complete:

I started two more, but I’m not ready to let you judge them.

Thinking outside the box when  you don’t have a clue what exists outside that box — is hard!  The last one, the abstract one, was fun to do, but I had no idea whether it was going to be good once it was finished.  Turns out–I like it a lot.  But I don’t know that I can ever do it again.  I will try.  Is this how the great abstract artists of the mid 20th century started out?  Almost all of them first learned how to draw and paint realistically, traditionally.  Probably most tried to jump on the abstraction wagon but many just couldn’t stomach it.  The latter are the artists who kept traditional, realistic painting respectable for folks like me.

Figure, Garden, 2017, Part 1

This is the fourth summer in which I have had the privilege of painting in the Gloucester garden of David Curtis. [For a taste of 2014 click this; 2015, here; and 2016, here.]  I was worried for a while–David was quite sick with an infection that landed him in the hospital for weeks and he is still recuperating.  Is it selfish to be concerned about one’s own personal loss when a friend or colleague is undergoing a crisis?  How can you not think about that!  But I feel guilty.  I’m so relieved that he has survived, for his sake and mine.

So in May when I heard that David was running a 3-day Figure in the Garden workshop at St. Gaudens National Park in New Hampshire, I couldn’t sign up fast enough!  The famous sculptor, Augustus St. Gardens, had his home and studio in Cornish,   It’s now the only National Park in New Hampshire unless you count the Appalachian Trail.  Cornish is northwest of me, close to Vermont, just South of Hanover, about an hour and a half’s drive, a doable commute.  And I got lucky and interested local artist Rollande Rouselle in also attending the workshop, so we drove up together.

In the mornings of the workshop, we did landscapes with some input from David’s assistant, Connie Nagle.    In the afternoon, Connie was our model, taking the same pose for all three afternoons.  The third afternoon, Friday, got scratched for Rollande and me due to rain in the forecast.  (David offered and we accepted the substitute of three Sundays in Gloucester.)  So the painting below represents the two afternoons plus some perfecting touches in the home studio.

At St Gaudens' Studio

At St. Gaudens’ Studio

The next three Sundays we painted in David’s Gloucester garden.  Connie was back as the model for the first two Sundays, and held the same pose both days.  I chose to try a portrait of Connie on the second Sunday instead of working on the garden painting.  That portrait is still not fit for public viewing, but the Garden one is, I believe, successful.  In my studio, I added a few objects to the painting that weren’t there in fact:  frog in the foreground and child in the background.

Connie behind the Giant Tree

Hide ‘n Seek

The third Sunday was this past Sunday.  Our model was Maryanne Thompson, another artist.  She wore the same dress that she posed in last season in the painting I called “Diamond Bracelet”–see it here.

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Maryanne in Blue

All three paintings are 16 by 20.  All are for sale.

Tomorrow I will be down to Gloucester again.  The weather promises the best.  If I do nothing all summer other than these Sunday paintings, it would be enough.  (However, I am doing other stuff–landscapes and cats, grist for another blog.)

EVENT:  July 23-30 only!  “Beyond the Visible”, an art exhibit expressing our concerns about the environment.  I have two pieces in the show:  Enchanted; and Hammock in Winter (renamed for the show as “Extreme Seasons”).  The location is Azure Rising Gallery, 628 So. Main Street in Wolfeboro, NH.  Because Wolfeboro is pretty far for me to drive, and because I have to sit the gallery on Friday the 28th (1 pm to 3), that day will be the only day I’ll be up there, but here are the other hours:  Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays 11-3.   Reception and Art Walk, Saturday, July 29th 5:00-7:30.  Catch it if you can.

Back to Making and Sharing Art

It has been so long–months– that I have allowed myself to get sucked into the vortex of earning money on a timed and output basis.  I had intended to work a part-time job preparing tax returns for the clients of H&R Block, but part-time became full-time (even some overtime) and the clients became mine.  I hardly had time to do laundry and cook.  Recorded TV programs mounted up.  I would try to watch TV when I got home after 9 o’clock, but I kept falling asleep.  But now I am free again and so grateful for the privilege.

The only art I kept up with during this period was the Saturday life sessions, so I have photographed my favorites for discussion purposes.  First, I’ll show you the ones that could not be finished because they were only 5 or 10 minutes poses.  Works in progress  help illustrate my approach to drawing the figure.

The first thing I try to capture is the “gesture”.  The gesture will underlie the finished drawing and is therefore critical to a good result.  I make a lot of errant lines as I splash around trying to fit the pieces together in correct proportions–all without losing the movement of the gesture.

All Photos - 11 of 15

With a little more time, I can eliminate some of the errant lines and start noting where the shadows fall.  The shapes begin to acquire depth.

All Photos - 13 of 15

The next stage contains most of the notes that I would need to bring the drawing to a finished state, but without the model in pose, I don’t usually get care enough to finish the piece.

All Photos - 15 of 15

Despite the time constraints, occasionally I do finish a piece.  Such a piece will be one that contains fewer details or complexities–for example, the back of the figure instead of the front.  The pillows and fabric must be dealt with also.  The white pencil is a favorite tool of mine at this stage.

All Photos - 10 of 15

Color is sometimes added to enhance the drawing when I have a lot of extra time.

Filling out the shape

I prize this last one highly for the sense of volume, of flesh, but regret the horizontal lines that have permanent ruined the piece as a whole.  They happened when I was preparing the paper with hard charcoal with flat sweeps that etched those dark lines.  How could I not have noticed before it was too late?  Oh well.

I have scaled way back on the number of places to exhibit my paintings.  I did that partly because of the time constraints and the “day job”, but also partly because I felt a little glum and pessimistic about the effort turning in sales.  Nevertheless, two paintings sold from the McGowan Gallery in February, and my contribution to the Currier Museum staff and volunteer exhibit has found a home with one of my fellow docents.  Opening next week is a 3-person exhibit at the Massabesic Audubon Center.  The emphasis will be on NH landscapes but I might sneak in an animal or two.  The Opening Reception is scheduled for Friday May 5, 5 to 7.  I probably won’t get there until 6 o’clock because that Friday is one of my Symphony dates–Trip to Boston for Museum of Fine Arts and Boston Symphony Orchestra matinee.

I have not advertised my participation in the Audubon exhibit much, due of course to the “day job”.  But I still hope to see some familiar faces at the reception when I get there.

Other places where you can still catch a few examples of my works:

  • NH Antiques Coop in Milford NH
  • Bartlett Inn in Bartlett NH
  • Mesmer & Deleault Law Firm in Manchester NH

As usual, you may view paintings with prices and order prints, phone cases, pillows and the like at my Fine Art America pages, which are, like this blog, way overdue for updating. If the painting you are interested in is not there, or if you prefer to bypass that experience, you may contact me by email to alotter@mac.com.

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