May 10, 2012

Drawing on the Edge: Working in the Zone

I studied figure drawing and painting with Christopher Drake, an excellent artist teaching at The Morean Art Center in the late 1980's, in St Petersburg Florida. He came over once to look at a pastel which I was working on; he pointed to the head and told me that he liked the scribble I had done to create the form. He told me the ability to draw like this is an excellent skill to have and that it is called, drawing on the edge.

 He then explained to me that, drawing on the edge, is when you use a scribble to define a shape. He said not all artists are able do this type of spontaneous drawing and that it has a special interesting vitality to it, which is particularly attractive.
Angel by Salvador Dali
Medium: Blue Ball Point Pen Drawing
Size: 11.25" x 15.25" (double page)
Year: 1974
Salvador Dali comes to mind when I think of wonderful drawings of this nature; especially his figure drawings.

I also love to create a wire form around the figure in those quick early sketches which artists do to warm up in a life drawing session. These early warm up sketches have a vitality or edge to them and have a look that is interesting and pleasing as a work of art.

It is also good to use this style of drawing when you work from life with animals who are moving or have the potential to change position while you are drawing them.

 To do this type of sketch you dance your pencil around the figure quickly defining the inside and outside shape. In this way you get the form drawn quickly while also keeping life like look of the animal. This is especially important when you are drawing an animal in motion. 

A drawing of this nature can often tell more about the animal and its nature than a more studied look. This can also be compared to using fewer words to tell a story.

Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards is a good book to help a student learn how to draw and work in this spontaneous style. For me it was a natural part of my evolution as an artist. I developed this drawing style on my own, when I was a child.

Whether drawing the quick sketch with edge or a detailed painting; I know of the importance of creating energy in my art.  The Chinese call it Chi. Chi energy is considered by the Chinese to be the most important ingredient in a work of art. With Chi energy, you see the artist’s life energy infused into the art work to the point where the work itself takes on a life of its own.  The flow of Chi is created with a state of mind that is as refreshing as it is demanding.  This is the time when the artist feels at one with what she is working on; transcending thought and yet intensely aware. 

Runners and other athletes’ get this feeling when they describe, “being in the zone”.  When the artist is most intense and fully absorbed, she opens herself to this flow of energy. Things happen when you create in this zone. The art has a spontaneity and ease that can open the artist to new levels of expression and power. 

May 2, 2012

Sunset Reflections:: Organ Mountains; Las Cruces, New Mexico

 Oil on Canvas on Birch Plywood Board 12"X16"

I painted this is on a high ridge overlooking the Las Cruces, Organ Mountains. While I was painting it a Vietnam Veteran came by and started talking.  He told me how he recently lost his wife whom he had met in Vietnam while serving over there.  He was headed out west to live in his RV near one of his daughters. We talked about how beautiful the drive west on I-10 is. And he told me how he had planned to take this trip with his wife and now he not only had a bad heart but was grieving the recent and unexpected loss of his wife. He talked about his love for her, his family, and Vietnam.  We then fell silent; two strangers come together, the artist and the soldier, both elders with many years and miles behind us, on our journey to the West, brought together now in silent revere by this majestic setting sun over the Organ Mountains.

April 24, 2012

Virtual Paintout: Keying a Painting

Dress in Window, St Petersburg Russia oil on board 9"X12"

 This painting was created using GoogleStreet Views and posted on The Virtual Paintout  which is hosted by Bill Guffey.  At the beginning of  each month, artists are given a new place in the world to explore using Google Maps, Street Views. I enjoy "walking around" and choosing a scene to paint and while I am looking I learn quite a lot about the area. 

It is amazing what Google has done with their cameras and what you can see and learn about a location when you zoom in using the street view icon, which is a little man on the distance bar. It is also interesting to see what other people have chosen to paint. Here is the link to see the  The Virtual Paintout: St Petersburg Russia paintings, including my painting, "Dress In Window".

  Blue Jeans on Roof   9" x 12" oil on canvas on birch plywood, brush and pallet knife
 The painting "Blue Jeans on Roof" is from a view I found in the Canary Islands. You can see the other paintings in this challenge at 
 The Virtual Paintout: Canary Islands.

 You can see my Virtual Paintout Series with more information on  these paintings on my Website.

Keying the Painting:  

It is interesting when comparing these paintings side by side, both depict an overcast day but they have a different Key. 

The painting on the left is St Petersburg Russia, which is in a far northern location, it is predominantly a darker subdued color.  This would be considered a "low key". While the painting on the right is  the Canary Islands, which is near the equator and is a light toned painting in a "high key".  Keying a painting is not about the color but the value. Is the painting in a darker shade or lighter shade?

 While looking at St Petersburg Russia on the Google Street View Map, I saw the photograph as being dark, yet bright. To create this effect I stained the canvas with a silvery blue gray underpainting, using ultramarine blue and raw umber. These colors were also the main dark colors throughout the painting. A yellow ochre was scumbled and brush worked into the stone building. The dark underpainting effected the tonal value of the ochre without diminishing it's intensity. 

The Canary Island painting on the right was painted using a burnt sienna underpainting. A white mixed with some ultramarine blue were  stroked into the sky and building, using pallet knife. These are the predominant colors used along with yellows and mixed greens. This created a bright light value or high key, in keeping with this subject's equatorial setting. 

Deciding on the key of the painting before you begin will help make a painting cohesive and expressive.

Aleada Siragusa

April 6, 2012

He sustains my soul, by him only; I am fulfilled.

Ephesians 3:19
May you experience the Love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

 Colored pencil on paper by Aleada Siragusa

Have a joyous Easter. These two crosses were inspired by lessons from the  Companions In Christ Bible study book.

Colored pencil on paper by Aleada Siragusa
Being familiar with painting grapes I drew the two crucifixes above completely from memory.

 Ink & watercolor, 36"x 24" 
Oriental style brush painting by Aleada Siragusa

As a teacher in Oriental painting at the St Petersburg College in Florida, I wanted to teach the brush strokes used for painting grapes. I grew the purple grapes on my fence which are common in Florida, so I had a great subject to study. I spent time dry brush painting the grapes while studying and practicing the brush strokes. This lead me to create the above painting which was displayed in the annual national competition of the Sumi e Society of America, Salmagundi Club, NYC.

The Bible study group of which I have the good fortune to work with, is now studying the Psalms, using the book; Entering the Psalms; Meeting God in Scripture, published by The Upper Room. In Session one we read Psalm 104, which celebrates God as the creator. One of the suggestions for study was to write a prayer praising God for creation. Since I love to write poetry and have written other prayers, I was eager to write my own personal psalm, which I will share with you now.

Aleada's Psalm of Creation

Vast is the universe my God has made. Both infinitely large and infinitesimally small; God brought creation into being. Beyond my wisdom and judgment, God breathed life into all creation. He set the cycle of birth and death in motion and thus created time. Circle within circle spiraling upward, all I see vibrates with the joy of God's hand. Though small and vulnerable, God endowed me with love and reason and set me on this path. As his child I learn and grow. With the freedom to make my own choices; I am able to reach for the stars. Always I desire the loving embrace of my God, my Creator Father. He sustains the world; he sustains my soul. By him only; I am fulfilled.

March 27, 2012

More plein air art from the Mother Daughter Paintout team, Aleada and Leela Siragusa

As I said before we are the Joan and Melissa Rivers of Plein Air Paintout. Please allow me to expand on this, if you will. As a famous comedian, Joan is mainly known for is her wit, her humor and she is now also known for her great relationship with her daughter which leads to many good stories and fun as they work together. Leela and I have a banter among ourselves along with her father, my husband, Guy.  I treasure the time we have to paint together with so many laughs along the way.

So here is the second edition of the Mother Daughter Paintout, which takes place in areas around St Petersburg Florida.

 Palm tree grouping, Aleada

 Here we are on location at Fort De Soto Park at a southern area of Pinellas County. I have painted here several times before and you can see these photographs and learn more about the park in my Gallery and my Links page.
This is Leela's watercolor  looking out on the water from the picnic area.

Above is a small watercolor I painted looking out at the bridge at John's pass.

Above is a a pen and ink Leela drew looking from under the bridge.

Not far from where we live is the Veterans Memorial Park where I have also painted and drawn many times. I drew and painted the view above while on a walk with my dog and Leela's cat. again you can see more paintings done here in my Gallery.

Leela drew this energetic picture at one of the picnic area's in the park. I like the expressive movement in the foliage and that she left it "unfinished", it reminds me of a Van Gogh sketch.

I painted this small watercolor overlooking the inlet towards Madeira Beach at the same picnic table.

 The watercolor above was done at Saw Grass Lake Park, it was still winter so the spring greens were not budding out on the trees yet.
Here is another pen and ink Leela drew in the same location near the water, note the egret sitting on the tree branch.
Leela also drew this lovely windswept palm tree while we were out.

March 9, 2012

Scapegoating or Not

everyone may be against you except God- take comfort in the Lord and do what you know is right

The above prayer I wrote to go along with this drawing.  It is taken from Mark 14:3-9

If you mention that you have had no support from your parents from an early age, it may not be scapegoating, but a response to the often used, “my parents saw what a great artist I was at an early age”. You may be just saying; like I did, “hey I made it as an artist in spite of some things that didn't go my way”.  Are we to always just be silenced when we point this out? Should I just leave large gaps in my life instead of saying things weren't always rosy? There is a balance here that needs to be struck between biographical information or just complaining, and blaming. Hey it's ok to inform and perhaps encourage others who may be facing illness, or a busy child rearing career coupled with outside work, all sorts of reasons you may not be producing to your fullest potential. When we focus on people’s complaints as being just scapegoating, perhaps we miss the point; we need to encourage by showing ways to create art, in spite of everything. That's what I try to do, just give people the tools they need to express themselves;  no matter what.  I did it; I was able to take the time to be an artist; I was blessed with opportunities along with some setbacks; but hey, that's what life's about!

  I am auto-biographical in my musings and in sharing parts of my life and in defense of what I say, which is not always about being happy or healthy, I think this is relevant.

 The drawing and prayer I created to go along with this drawings taken from Mark 14:3-9 

I created it originally for a lesson from the book, The Way of The Scripture, Companions in Christ chapter 4 exercise 3.

Here is the Bible Passage:

Mark 14:3-9
New International Version (NIV)
 3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
 4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages[a] and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
   6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you,[b] and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” 

Below are my comments:

And They Rebuked her harshly

if  you put yourself in this woman's place you will see what a brave thing she did. She was not allowed to touch Jesus, considered to be a Rabbi. Perhaps she touched him while she poured the oil over his head. Now here are the 12 apostles rebuking her harshly, just look at the picture, 12 against two, there she is entering this place and doing this act which outraged so many. She is just a woman, and as we know in those days and even many places today she is considered a second class citizen by being female. Now Jesus comes to her defense, “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. [how healing for her and enlightening to the apostles,] "She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial."

So here I am  in the year of our Lord 2012, sharing this passage with you after having spent more than one evening discussing this in class.

"Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”



February 27, 2012

Mother Daughter Dinosaur Paint Out

You can say Leela and Aleada Siragusa are the Melissa and Joan Rivers Mother-Daughter Team of Plein Air Art. For those of you who do not know the term, plein air simply is French for painting or drawing out of doors from life. 

 Here Leela and I are geared up and ready to paint and draw.
My daughter, Leela and I often get out into nature and create our art together. Leela is professional 3D artist working in environments specifically for video game art.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 - Xbox 360 - Scottsdale
Leela's name is on 6 of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour Games.

There is nothing better than being able to paint and visit with my wonderful daughter, I am so proud of her and I’m so grateful we share so much.
 We are at the old entrance to Dinosaur World.
We have annual tickets to Dinosaur World, a charming theme park with over 150 life-sized Dinosaurs in a lovely Florida landscape. These Dinosaurs are just waiting for the opportunity to pose for the people who dare to venture through a woods filled with toothy Mesozoic creatures.
 Guy, my husband  who is also Leela's father comes with us; here he is amusing himself.
Leela has always been a fan of the dinosaur and every time we drove past the dinosaur at exit 17 on I -4 in Plant City Florida, she would say how she wanted to see Dinosaur World. Aside from the large-scaled dinosaurs the park has information on each featured Dinosaur, educational videos, fossil digs, picnic areas, a great gift shop, and this Wednesday they are opening a new dinosaur museum.

 As you can see by this photograph, these dinosaurs are life sized.
There are three Dinosaur World Theme Parks in the USA.

The first day we visited the park we visited we didn't have much time to create art because of the size of the park and educational information put out on each dinosaur took most of our time. We were so excited with the opportunity to paint dinosaurs in nature, though late in the day. I started a painting and Leela drew and finished a ink drawing with watercolor and pastel.

We came back another day when Leela drew another ink picture and I finished the painting I started.

I am using a small watercolor 24 pan set of Koi Watercolor, a water brush, and Escoda Travel Brushes.

Above is my first Dinosaur, a Saltasaurus painted in watercolor which I finished on our second day to the park.

Leela found this small colorful Utahraptor dinosaur among the ferns. She used ink, watercolor and pastel on the picture above.

 Later Leela decided to draw the Saltasaurus Dinosaur with an emphasis on the waterfall.

Leela drew this Saltasaurus Dinosaur the second day while I was finishing my painting.

Here is a close up of the picture as she draws it.  She is currently working in ink, and also at times, watercolor and pastel.

The third day there we stopped to pose for a family portrait with the Ceratosaurus Dinosaur which I was planning to add too my next painting. Back for another visit with more time than we allowed for our last visit.

Below I am standing to get a better view of the Ceratosaurus Dinosaur for my painting.

Here I am with my pensive look studying my composition, the setting, light, and dinosaurs. With me is my little toy poodle, Basil, which Guy took for a long walk while we painted.

I knew I would paint the blue small dinos, the Tanystropheus in the ferns with the fierce Ceratosaurus approaching in the distance.

This is Leela looking at her Dinosaur on the opposite side of the path from me.

She chose to draw an ink view of these Massospondylos dinosaurs among the ferns.

Above are the dinosaur sculptures I drew which are located at the first courtyard when you enter Dinosaur World. The tall necked Dinosaur is missing his name sorry but the large one on the right is the  Acrocanthosaurus and the one just below it is a Juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex. I drew them while I waited with the dog for Leela and Guy to get out of the new museum. As I mentioned before, they are life sized and very realistic which of course, you can see in this drawing. Since these are in the courtyard they are on a  mowed lawn with a plain building in the background which I chose not to include.  It would would have cluttered the design.
Here I am drawing from a picnic table outside the museum with the Acrocanthosaurus in the background. On this day we attended the opening of the Dinosaur museum. 
I will share more of our art from our paintouts soon; so please visit again, Aleada Siragusa