Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cappy's for a Good Time

What a fun evening we had last night at Cappy's Restaurant! 
Congratulations to Jeannette Cuevas, for an inspiring art show!
The artwork is truly beautiful. 
Good choices in framing!

There are 26 original pieces of art work on display in the popular San Antonio restaurant, all by our Pleasanton artist, Jeannette Cuevas.  Definitely worth the trip!
 Most of the  painting are figurative, relaxing with a book or fishing in the coast or some other sort of peaceful moment taken from a cowboy's life.    I have never seen one of her painting that did not touch me in some way.

We had the good fortune to sit directly in front of two of Jeannette's pieces.
I made sure I did not have my back to the pieces and studied them as I ate.
If anything makes me want to go home and paint it is looking at how Jeannette uses color and light in her paintings. 

Not only is the art work worth the trip but the building itself that is the restaurant is charming.  Built in the 30's by the son of an English-born builder who had been collecting old broken bricks from the buildings he had previously built.  Upon returning home from college his son and a couple of his friends used the old broken bricks that would have otherwise been considered ruble and built the building that now is Cappy's.    In the 70's when it was suggested that the building be turned into a restaurant it was first thought to be too small and not easily visible to Broadway but Cappy's opened in 1977 and has been a popular restaurant in the Alamo Heights area in San Antonio. 

If you have not seen her work you must see it in person to truly see what a gifted artist she is.
Jeannette Cuevas
Cappy's Restaurant
March 26th through June 4th, 2011 
 5011 Broadway

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chocolate Cake Saturday

I love Saturdays!
As you know, it is my day for chocolate!  Among other cleaning house and doing laundry! 
Not a pretty cake but delicious!
The hot fudge icing seeps into the cake making it taste more like candy! 

Next Sunday is a baby shower in my home for a sweet young lady having her second daughter and I kicked it into high gear to get my house prepared, cleaning now, decorating next Saturday. Opportunity and the desire to clean during the week is not very much to none so today was the day but I held firm to my plan to bake a chocolate cake.  Not just any cake but the best chocolate cake grandmother's chocolate cake.

I still have a bit of creative time left over to use before the day is over.
Does baking count as being creative?

Grandmama’s Chocolate Cake
 Cream together:
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
Add to creamed mixture:
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup boiling water

Add alternately flour mixture and milk mixture ending with flour:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp soda
1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla

Turn oven on to 350°.   Prepare four 9 inch pans by greasing and flouring.  Cut wax paper to fit the bottom of the pan.  Pour batter equally into pans and bake for 25 minutes. 
Ice with fudge while hot. 
Grandmama used a toothpick and poked holes in the hot cake so fudge would run into the cake.

2 cups sugar, 1 stick butter, 1/2 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup evaporated milk. 
Combine  in iron skillet and heat to boiling.  Boil for about a minute or two.  Pour over hot cake, pulling up fudge from the bottom and icing continually until the fudge hardens on the cake. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Touch Ups

Freesia (Watercolor and Pastel)

I have been continuing my challenge to myself to be creative EVERY day.  I think in truth I did miss one day when I was traveling but it was an inspirational day just the same. I came away with books to inspire me and plants to fill my spirit (including a bird of paradise).

Even though everything I painted is not breath-taking, it is a step toward improvement.

I took all my new paintings, new ideas and enthusiasm to school with me on Monday and challenged my students to be more creative, to look at other people's art work for inspiration and to not be complacent with where they are in their stage of development.  As usual, I touched some of the kids, some were only listening with their eyes, some didn't even bother with that. 

 Students often come by and talk and ask questions when my artwork is out on the table. The desire to touch is overwhelming.

Tuesday I was painting at school on the painting here "Freesia". Here I stood pastel in hand adding the final touches and students began to gather.  Two students reached out and began to rub the surface before I could stop them.  Even when I told them that pastels are easily smeared they continued to rub.  Later I looked at the painting and sure enough the pastels were smeared and I had lost some of the edges. 

So now, I am teaching my students to respect other people's artwork by not touching!
So this week my accomplishments were to complete the final touches to "Freesia" and "Beach Play" which I decided needed more color in the background and more moss in the coastline.
Beach Play (Watercolor)

I did spend a couple of days being creative through technology.  I made two buttons (or badges) for my blog and one for Linda's Buzzing and Bumbling blog (which is not visible yet...coming soon).  See my sidebar. I am working on linking one button to my home page and one to my gallery page but have not gotten that figured out.  Time is my challenge this week. 

So until next time.....focus on your creativity.  It only makes you better!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Please, God, Let There Be Chocolate in Heaven

Chocolate is certainly one of my weaknesses.
But I have been able to curb my desire for chocolate to only on Saturdays and this is working for me.
I want to be sure my chocolate is well worth the experience.
I think the following recipe certainly fills the bill for me.  It can be mixed in a medium size bowl with a spoon, popped into the oven in less than five minutes preparation time and then just be patient and wait a short twenty minutes.

It would take longer for me to drive to town to get a candy bar. 

My Saturday Chocolate Fudge Volcano Cups

3/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla

Stir all together.  Grease, spray or whatever you do to four custard cups and pour in the batter.
Bake at 350 degrees and bake for 20 minutes.  (If your cups are larger and you do 3 custard cups bake for 25 minutes.) Don't even bother with a toothpick just trust and take out.

The instructions say to take them out and let them sit for 10 -15 minutes but if you can do that you are better than I am.

I turn them out on a plate, put whipped cream on the plate next to it because the heat will melt the whipped cream but I still want it.

Fix myself a good cup of coffee to go with my fudge volcano and indulge.

Rag Quilt

In my class at school  along with all of my regular high school art students I have a special student from the Life Skills class.  He is a sweet young man and I have enjoyed having the opportunity to work with him.  (Read previous post Warm Fuzzies.)
The projects I do with him are an adaptation of the projects I do with the rest of my students, often involving some of the other students working with him. Over the years I have found that my regular students rise to the occasion and work really well with him giving a feeling of satisfaction to everyone concerned.

This year being the third year, I felt a need to do something different than we had done in previous years and as the school year unfolded ideas and opportunities presented themselves to me as I needed them.

The first idea came when my sister Linda,  posted a blog about painting on fabric using a glue resist,  School Glue Resist.   This was the beginning of the idea for me.  I had my students paint on muslin using fabric reactive dyes and the school glue as a resist.

We started off taking pictures of artificial sunflowers I had on hand from various angles and other artificial flowers and then cut rectangles of muslin for each student.  My Life skills student seemed to really enjoy working with the paint and fabric and soon I began to suggest we would make several squares and put it together into a blanket for him.  His enthusiasm was reward enough for the extra work I would do.

Each one of the 6 pieces took him a month to complete.  He started with the drawing, traced it onto the fabric, used the glue resist around the edges, painted the areas and then washed out the glue.  We tweaked the designs by finishing them by using a thick sharpie to outline the edges giving it just a touch of black to the piece.

After Christmas my daughter gave my youngest grandson a rag quilt made of flannel pieces and the wheels in my head began to spin like crazy.   It was so soft and attractive and became a favorite immediately.
The rag blanket

The idea for the finish was now firmly implanted in my head.  Once all of my student's pieces were completed I took them to a fabric store to match cotton pieces to the colors included in his painted pieces and bought black flannel.  Backing each piece with an equal size of flannel, and added a double thickness of black flannel for the border I stitched each piece together right sides out according to the plan I had drawn up and then cut to the seam lines spacing every half inch or so.  Then threw into the washer and dryer.
Rag blanket made by student

Wow!  It was great.  I really wanted to keep it and show it off awhile but he also was anxious to get it so I took photos of it and sent it home with the student.

The finished piece is the size of a twin size comforter.
Now we are working on a pillow sham to complete his set.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Battling the Demons Within

Here I sit today battling the demons within me,
the self doubt, 
the feeling of inadequacy,
the pressure of time and just life in general.....but I have to push forward and get out of this. 

We have got to come to the realization that no matter where we are stand in our field or career there is always going to one who is better or maybe even thousands.  No matter your accomplishments, the better you get the more others will want you to look at someone better than you.

Humbling, isn't it?

We can either use this humbling experience to drag us down or to propel us onward.

One artist I find inspirational to me also, humbles me more than any other when I see her work.  I love her.  She is a beam of sunlight to me when I see her which is not very often  but her artwork is extraordinary.  It shines light and life.    And it propels me forward to get more light and color into my work.  She is a wealth of information, having been a graphic artist for a well known company and is now working independently advancing her career in art.  My son, Caleb who is the owner of a frame shop locally has her artwork in his shop now to frame for a big show she is doing.  She has been published in the International Artist magazine, has had a number of one man shows, wins awards everywhere and conducts workshops for art teachers.

I study her artwork for clues to her genius with color.
I have to admit that the humbling experience is just the kick in the behind I need to make me get better....once I pick myself up and dust myself off.  I'll get in there and do better artwork just for knowing this woman.

Check out her website.  Jeannette Cuevas

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Child Within: Crayon Resist

Sometimes it is time to release the child inside of us.  
Sometimes the most creative thing to do is let ourselves play and that is exactly what I have been doing today.  

Last night I went on a shopping trip for my "toys".

The first toy I got was the big box of crayons, the box of 64 with the sharpener in the back.  Remember when you were a child and that was the box you wanted?  There is something magical and fun about being able to resharpen that crayon.  It may not be like new anymore but it the next best thing to it.

The second thing I got was a bunch of fresh flowers.  I really was searching for something exotic and tropical like Bird of Paradise but the stores here did not have any and I had to settle for freesia. No problem it will still work just fine.  Everyone should work from life occasionally.   Sometimes working from photos leaves a painting stiff and predictable but rest assured I have taken a good many photos to use later when the flowers wilt.

What a deal!  For seven dollars I had new toys to keep me busy for spring break and photos to use when the fresh flowers are not available and crayons with a sharpener!

Working on a heavy cold pressed sheet of watercolor paper that has a good textured surface and heavy enough not to tear up with the abuse I had to give the surface I quickly laid in a playful contour drawing of the flowers making sure to super-size the flowers.

I was so anxious to get started I even got out of bed and sat down at my drafting table around 1:00 AM and put in a few minutes coloring before returning to bed and sleeping awhile longer.  I got in the studio as soon as I could after taking care of the usual necessities.

It was a very freeing experience and one I may not use often but certainly was well worth my time today.   

Crayon Resist: Crayon is made of wax and when applied to watercolor paper blocks the absorption of paint.  Any area that is heavily covered with crayon will stay the color of the crayon but any areas that the crayon misses will absorb paint.  Crayon resist is based on the same principle used in the ancient art of batiks which uses melted wax to resist fabric dyes. 

To complete a painting using this technique first apply crayon before applying the paints or between layers of paint.  I did both.  Some areas had crayon on the white paper and then painted with an extremely dark watercolor like Prussian blue, alizarin crimson and/or ultramarine blue. Some areas I sandwiched the crayon between a light layer of watercolor underneath and a dark wash of color over the top.  

After the entire surface had crayon with a final wash of the dark watercolor I tweaked the composition with another application of crayon bringing out lights with a light crayon and pushing the darks with a black or dark color.  
*I resist using black altogether during the development of the composition and use it only meagerly in the end only where it is the only color that will work.  That way the painting sparkles color like reds and blues and purples rather than a flat black.   

My challenge today:  Release the child inside of you.  Stop holding yourself back because you are afraid it is not the customary way to do something.  Just cut loose and play!
There are no art police!

Just have fun!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Beach Play

Beach Play 

I'm not sure I am calling this finished yet but this is the progress I made today.
I have added in more intense colors and worked on details.
When I photographed this and the colors seemed to wash out on every picture I have to consider "is it too pale overall, not enough contrasts, need more of the darker values or is it just poor photography or maybe a mix of all of those things?

I think at this point I am going to set it aside for consideration.

Find Your Inspiration

New books always inspire me.  Most of the time it is a book for watercolor painting or even a well done children's book but recently I came across Botany for the Artist and just had to have this book, a hard copy, not a kindle copy.  I wanted to pour over this book looking at each picture and page and studying the illustrations.

When the book came I immediately recognized the quality of this book with it glossy paper, full of rich photos. The book is full of beautiful artistic photographs and plants and pencil drawings of the plants plus tips to draw them correctly.  I don't think you have to love plants like I do to love this book.

I packed up my new book, enough mechanical pencils to share with my grandchildren, a large sketchbook and an eraser and set off to visit the family.

Armed with a large bucket and scissors Regan led Justin and me through the "forest" in the back of their property and we set out on an expedition for plants to examine and draw.  We took a few stops like in the area Reagan called "the living room" and sat for a minute on an huge exposed root under an oak tree and stopped off in "the kitchen" and ordered a snack from her.  Then we moved on around the yard starting on the east side and ending in the front yard on the south stopping to look at a blooming pear tree or a mystery shrub along the fence line that had interesting looking sort of rectangular flat berries.  Each time we took a little cutting and put it in our bucket.

We took our find inside and showed our findings to the rest of the family and questioned the men about the red berry shrub, of course, heeding the warnings about poisonous berry (why are the red ones always poisonous?)

Then we sat down to do our drawing exploration.  Regan drew the red berry shrub, a sprig of catnip, a purple flower, a loquat leaf and some assorted other things and with the help of my genius spelling skills labeled each drawing.

Since I am old comparatively to Reagan as you might know I took much longer to draw my little pieces.  I drew one catnip leaf while she drew all of hers.

Justin on the other hand being the boy wonder that he is dug around a minute or two searching for the proper tools he could use and came back armed with an assortment of tools including crayons and in a flash had made an impression of the heavily veined leaf by placing it under the paper and coloring across the top of it.

Kristen who had been doing other things while we took our expedition joined us in the room and drew a picture of herself obviously unhappy with a huge frown on her face, Colby the cat and a caged pet mouse I have forgotten the name. She explained that she was unhappy because she was fussing at Colby the cat because Colby was trying to get the pet mouse.  Classic!

My regret is that I did not get a scan of their drawings so I could show their work.

I continued to work on my skills.
Caleb gave me a chunk of bark to draw and lichen.
The object of this exercise was not so much about getting the contours correct but to get the varied values to show the texture of an object. 

My challenge today is to find your inspiration and take action on it.  Time lost in idleness is lost forever but time spent creatively is something that stays in your head forever.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Fine Line:Organizing or Procratinating

I have determined there exists a fine line between organizing and procrastinating.

 About two weeks ago I decided I needed to start using some creative skills every day.  I considered this for a little while and decided this goal might be a little too demanding.  I considered lowering the requirements of the goal some and just setting it for once a week but then that already was sounding like a cop out. I set the goal for every day for a month just one month to begin with.  I can extend it after that.

Maybe soon I will have sharpened my skills and advanced my artistic career in the mean time. 

The first day I picked up an old photo of one my ten grandchildren, picked up a good size watercolor paper and picked up my pencil.  For the next few days I worked on the sketch and then I began to put paint on the paper.  Now, this is to get me back into being creative and sharpening my skills so when I soon found that I had missed the proper drawing in the area of the face, I had overworked the paint in an attempt to get it right and I was not liking the results I cut the drawing into small squares and turned the paper over to use for experimentation and told the guilt and feeling of inadequacy to go away!

Go away!  Go away!!!

I told myself, I said be creative every day that does not mean I have to turn out a finished painting every day.

I redrew the painting I cut into pieces in the following days and got it painted.  It still needs tweaking but it is just shy of completion.  (Picture will follow in a later post.)

In my studio lays another abandoned incomplete painting, turned upside down to keep the dust from settling and dirtying the surface.  It had been there a year and a half. At the time I abandoned it I had been progressing well on it but  when school started I had to put it aside and my work became the master of my time. 

That is amazing to me as I admit this now in writing.  I call myself an artist but did not paint for a year and a half?  How can this be?  I must have really been in a slump! It did not feel like I was in a slump.  I was busy doing other things.  I had cleaned and organized and after all..... school demands a lot of my time.

I turned the painting over and began to carry the painting back and forth between school and home.  I found it very difficult some days to find time at school to work on the painting but it was inspiring my students. I have had several requests to paint something coastal now.  I usually found a little time at least during advisory and often during my 1st period or 2nd period classes because those students are less dependent on me.  I successfully completed the painting and delivered it to Caleb and Gaby as a gift to them to be the companion piece to their wedding gift from me.

The wedding gift painting.  Gaby at Playa del Carmen.
Caleb's painting to go with Gaby's painting.

Keep up the pace.  Don't stop now!  Find more to do.

I found another abandoned work in my portfolio at school.   I had abandoned it because the sizing in the paper was defective and the paints were not working as I wanted.  Using soft pastels over the old watercolor I began to work freely, applying color quickly and intensely, working more expressively than I am generally accustomed to working.  Working in pastels is a messy business.  Due to the dustiness of the medium  I wapped it in white paper at the end of the day to protect it and set the composition aside for another time when I don't have to keep my surface clean maybe at home on spring break.  Packed my portfolio, packed up my paints, chalks, and tools in preparation of the spring break week! 

At home during the week prior to spring break I took a full sheet of watercolor paper and soaked it in the bathtub, stretched it on newspaper-covered thin plywood and stapled the paper in preparation of a new drawing.  The next day at school while my students watched a character building video with David Robinson as the MC I took the opportunity to draw on the newly stretched watercolor paper.

Today, Saturday marks theofficial  beginning of Spring Break 2011 and my plans are to stay creative daily throughout the week (not mentioning stay on my diet, too.)!  Even if it is only for a half hour, I have to keep up the pace. 

This morning I began the day trying to set up my art space.  I took down the old baby bed I had gotten for the grandchildren but never use.  I hung all of Lee's shirts that had been in the baby bed.  I hauled the baby bed downstairs and then talked Lee into helping me carry the heavy drafting table to the upstairs room where I will have great light for painting.  I thought it was going to kill one of us but we got the heavy thing upstairs. I could elaborate on the grunting, groaning and such but I will spare you the misery.  Just take it from was not an easy job.  I am just thankful that when the thing has to come down those stairs I will not be the one to take it down because it is only going to leave that spot when I die!  Next I was going to suggest that Lee help me carry up the light box but when I looked out the window his truck was gone.  Funny, I never heard him leave!
The upstairs studio space with all that great light!

Before I got upstairs to work I put a load of clothes in to wash, started the dish washer, reorganized the downstairs studio space since I had removed a big piece of furniture, swept the floor, and ...began to realize I was procrastinating all in the name of organization.  How often I do that. 

A day's worth of work.  Unfinished still but a good start!
Soon I was back in my chair in front of the watercolor painting.
And today was a good day!