Thursday, August 18, 2016

NFPAP's HOT reception

This day had a 'temperature index' approaching 100 degrees, but most of the people here would say it was hotter. We had a great crowd, but no one could stay very long, it was even warmer inside Carnegie Art Center, and if it were not for the quantity of artworks, the rooms would have emptied faster.

I had three paintings here and was pleased to see that two were together on a wall near an open door so they got attention from viewers seeking a breeze and escaping the heat. They were bathed in lovely light from the Carnegie's track system and augmented by the sun. I was joined by Laurene Buckley, Roger Mott and Claudia and we continued our visit into the evening by enjoying the sunset watching boats on the canal.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Painting a boat

The marina in Buffalo remains a favorite paint spot. The sounds of seagulls and wind in sailboat rigging lends this area a creative feeling. This sailboat marked only Buffalo NY attracted me with its classic lines and lack of pretension. It isn't a showboat, instead it's a sturdy dependable craft, a getaway on a summer day. 

Buffalo Marina 12x16 oil on birch

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Notaro Chiropractic

These two pastels were purchased several years ago for the Chiropractor office on Grand Island. The left was painted at Beaver Island near the sled hill and it was one of my first plein aire pastels. The second is the north bridge to Niagara Falls. 

One from each end of the island. It's always a pleasure to go there leaving comfortable and feeling great and then see my paintings by the entrance. It's time to get out the pastels!

Niagara Sentinels 11x14 pastel
North North Bridge 21x14 pastel

Perfect water

Fresh and still wet on the easel, I painted this while protected under my 6 foot plein aire umbrella. The sun was in front of me, morning on the ocean. I'm thrilled with the results even though I didn't add the seagulls who kept me entertained while painting. I also did a few sketches, one was of the crumbling summer home behind me, it took perhaps 10 minutes and I was not shaded. However did I get a sunburnt back and no where else? 10 minutes sketching?  

Connecticut St. Rocks. 9x12 oil on birch

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tonawanda Riverwalk Prize

Art on the Riverwalk, honorable mention, Jenna Koch, Tonawanda City

Art on the Riverwalk is a wonderful Sunday afternoon show in Tonawanda along the Niagara River. This was the 14th year and I had participated once before. SInce then we were always busy that weekend with family visiting and the 4th of July weekend. This year, I was free to attend and applied.

The wind blew gustily all day but the tent stayed up and people came by to cool off with the river breezes. Kids ran around, bicycles and skates passed walkers on the path and it was a simply fabulous day to sit out and chat with happy people.

I was assigned spot #9 by trees, close to my car and the comfort station, next to two painters displaying on the snowfences and a ceramic potter.

The organizers and PArtners in Art Gallery secured prizes locally which made the exhibit extra special. The painting above took the Jenna Koch-Tonawanda City Council President Award, an Honorable Mention green ribbon as well as a cash prize donated by Jenna Koch.

The painting reflected the day as it was painted during a similarly windy event. A hurricane whirled a distance off shore. The gusting winds lifted the crests of the tumultuous waves and created roosters of mist. Sturdy clamps held my board steady on a weighted tripod. It was fun to paint it!

Wave Watching (From the Boardwalk) 9x12 oil on carton 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Havana musician, oil painting Cuba
Elegantly dressed, this trumpet player serenaded from this doorstep, Cuban flag mounted on little clips attached to the fan fold green door. I felt honored to capture this moment in Havana, Cuba. The painting was done later in my studio, the third in a series for Pasion Latin Restaurant.

 I worked from the background to the center details, leaving his hands and face for last. My photo didn't have the hand and fingers in enough detail to paint a three foot tall canvas, so I googled 'trumpet player.' Lots of great musicains and portrait pictures, but very little information that I needed at this angle, so I tried 'Cuban trumpet player' in a google search. Lo and behold, this particular musician was in half the shots, and by scrolling down I could see his advancement, from a plain red button shirt, to a brown tweed suit and up to this dapper white one. Bless those tourists!

Now part 2 of his story, he is mounted on the wall in Pasion and looks simply wonderful, adding color and atmosphere to the room. A gentleman comes up to me at the reception and says "There is a guy in there who knows the trumpet player." Of course I have to introduce myself, and he and his date are next to each other looking at the painting. He tells me the trumpeter's name which I promptly enter into my phone notes. I also learn that he played at the Buena Vista Social Club. Our group got to go there, just in time, as it has since permanently closed. The reason given is that the musicians are too old and want to stop. What, no substitutes? Anyway, I wrote his name amidst a crowded restaurant, surrounded by friends and blasting Cuban salsa and didn't notice that spell check corrected my Spanish. Later, looking up his name, I read 'Campo Defunded' Nope, that's not right.

Concert to the Cuban Sky, oil on canvas 36x24 c. 2016

The Village Inn

On its way out the door, I took a quick snapshot as I do not have a photo of this finished painting before the frame.

The Village Inn is a local Grand Island restaurant with a bit of New Orleans flair to the menu. It's tucked into Ferry Village, an area of the island where ferry boats would bring patrons from Buffalo on weekends, to dance, drink and carouse. The main dancehall, The Bedell House, was just down the street. Like other dancehalls here, it burned down, a victim of lack of electricity, I suppose. 

This painting will live on the wall of the Inn, on the eating porch; the room was just repainted, and coincidentally it happens to be our favorite place to sit. 

Sunday Morning, 12x16 oil on birch panel

Friday, June 3, 2016

I paint water, landscapes and outdoors so often that people forget I love food, like fruits and vegetables. YEs, I love to eat but they are very obedient models as well, especially when I want to paint but outdoors does not cooperate. 
This year I was selected to submit works for the Lewiston Region Tour of Kitchens and Homes Event and 3 of my paintings were chosen to stage one of the sites. The dark frames will jump out and look spectacular in the great white kitchen.
Three others will be displayed at Barton Hill Hotel for the final event, along with a selection of my minis. I get excited when my work is featured and seen by so many new eyes. I also love seeing the food paintings displayed together.

Lemon Hide, pastel

Sanded Tomatoes, pastel

Tomatoes and Mushrooms, oil

Carl Ate Two Radishes, oil

EDITED, several more paintings were selected for display at Barton Hill, plus 3 were used to stage a lovely River Road home. This is the display at the hotel.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Spirit of Havana

I am so thrilled to have mastered SATIN!
This beautiful and proud lady modeled for the plein air painters in Cuba and I took her photo when she took a break. She was an amazing model, no motion, and she stayed seated and kept her foot stretched for a half day. I didn't paint her in Havana, instead this is a studio piece and quite large. I painted it especially for the dining room of  Pasion Latin Restaurant in Buffalo, one of three paintings for them.

art in Cuba, orange satin, native dress
Spirit of Havana, oil 36x24 c.2016

Her REAL job is to keep planting fresh lipstick on the cheeks of tourists, then posing for photos and collecting a CUC, or tourist peso, equal to a dollar. A fair number of gentlemen walk around with a juicy kiss planted on their cheeks as part of the deal.

A different art, Eco-dyes

 A large collection of Christmas Cactus flowers and some branches with a small bunch of impatiens blooms were arranged on a pre-soaked well loved white sweater. I don't remember the name of the solution for pre soaking which was two days.

Then, it was all rolled tightly, with strings and rubberbands, for compression and double bagged...for three full days.
The second bag said 'fancy rolls' just for irony.
Unbagged, I steamed it for quite a while and let it cool slowly in the pot. I might have waited longer for the dyes to set more but I was getting impatient.

Rinsed and washed on delicate, I am thrilled with the results. But, it took a week and the weather warmed so it will be new for Fall.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival

Spring in WNY is a time of glorious color, flowers, warm weather, outdoor activities. Early May brings a riot of pink to the Japanese gardens behind the Buffalo HIstory Museum, and a collection of events and painters to capture them.

With the Niagara Falls Plein Air Painters, I went to the Gardens to paint twice on consecutive Saturdays. This is my first attempt at painting the figures in a pediment and I was surprised at the variety of scale as I inspected their shadows and positions of the figures. The reclining figure on far left was tiny compared to the soldier with a shield kneeling next to him. And yes, I eliminated two of the figures for my sanity, after all, who counts?
pink trees, classical architecture, Japanese flowers
Saturday's Pinks 9x12 oil on birch

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Havana Taxi Stand

Paint Cuba, Plein air painter, KSchifano

"Did you see old cars?" is the first question regarding a trip to Cuba. 

Yes. Most of the cars are old and most of them are taxis. Carefully hobbled from existing parts after the Cuban Revolution and the American embargo, a look at the streets is a step back in time. 

Other than the exteriors, the bulk of this treasure trove of classic cars have been replaced. Many have diesel engines now, and a look inside shows polka dot upholstery, broken levers and hanging wiring. Often they need to be push started and a ride, or even a walk, along a road involves seeing newly broken down vehicles being tended to by a bevy of muscular Cubans. A drivers license in Cuba requires a test in car repair.

A row of cars waits near the tourist bus stops and this painting was made from Gail Sauter's photo in that area. Painting it, I learned a lot about painting chrome and had a great time searching for photos of various details as well as the date and model of each car. It's big and it will be mounted in the new Latin Restaurant, Pasion, on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo NY.

Right to Left, 1957 Ford Fairlane, 1950 Chevrolet, 1952 Buick

Havana Taxi Stand, oil 24x48 on canvas, c. 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Transportation in Cuba

 Everyone asks about the old cars. They are colorful and everywhere and most of them are taxis for tourists. To get a driving license in Cuba you must pass a test of mechanics as most of the cars are from the 40's and 50's, and many of them are in constant repair. We were warned not to cross a street with an oncoming relic, they would not slow as brakes were not dependable.

Cubans have many modes of alternate transportation, everything from horseback to public busses, including motorcarts and bicycle taxis or rickshaws. Out of the city, animals are preferred and I saw many carts loaded with families, workers, produce and hay. The horses were in much better shape than the wheels which were frequently made of wood or mismatched rubber from various vehicles.


Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea. Who hasn't picked up the classic battle of man and fish and time? Cojimar, where Ernest Hemingway kept his yacht El Pilar is a small fishing village east of Havana. I was eager to paint on my first day, stepped off the bus and set up overlooking the harbor and a decrepit Castillo, one of many seaside fortress buildings from Cuba's storied past. The day was sunny and the air had a slight breeze, but the eastern sky was dark and foamy. I knew I had to paint quickly and 20 minutes into the picture I had my elbow wedged on the palette and hand firmly on the paintbox as the wind increased. Rain started and there didn't seem to be any blue sky anywhere, the light on my subject had gone and I needed to find shelter. Behind me was a small main street with an overhanging porch and I set up thinking I could keep working. After the palette I was gripping took off like a frisbee twice I became aware I was no match for the wind and the sea or the sideways rain. Chilled and wet, I packed up. It was only 40 minutes since I had arrived.

La Terraza is a small restaurant on a side street which was mentioned by our guide before the bus parked. Walking the tiny village I stepped in to see the 'famous' restaurant and warm up, and several members of our group were at a table enjoying mojitos and coffee. On the wall was a painting of Hemingway, the floor to ceiling windows had huge wooden shutters, the bar stools were full and a mariachi band was drowning all conversation. I heard 'Hotel California' played for the first of many times in Cuba. I sat with new friends and we discussed the price of a few squares of tissue in the ladies room, named the instrumentals by the band and rated the overpriced drinks. It was my first full morning in Cuba.

The back porch had an assortment of tables set for lunch and a stunning view of the harbor, pilings from old docks, churning waves and a small lighthouse. In a corner a set table had velvet ropes and a small sign explaining that it was where Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea. He lived in Cuba from 1940-1960 and is considered a folk hero, his haunts are celebrated and one Havana restaurant proclaims 'Papa never was here'.

Hemingway's table

A pavilion with a bust of Hemingway, Castillo on the left.

Same spot, after the storm

Placid water after the storm

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

An Original Plantation in Cuba

This old steeple aimed for the sky, no longer connected to the dissolved chapel it once announced.  The plein air painters in Cuba were charmed by the entire area, a rickety old crumbling manor house, trees growing through walls, ancient vines and a farmer neighbor using a horse and cart to move the cut grasses.  We demanded that our bus driver find a place to let us out and everyone settled around to paint this old molasses and sugar cane plantation.  The manor house was a treasure of textures to paint, but the steeple attracted me. The old bell glowed with a blue green patina, wild flowers and trees were growing out of the foundation.   
I think I did justice to this historic site.  It brings my painting goals back to "Painting for Preservation" roots in Buffalo.                                                    

Abandoned Steeple
Abandoned Steeple, oil on Arches Huile, 12x9 c. 2016

This painting is headed to Baltimore for a 'Cuba in Paint' exhibit at Crystal Moll Gallery  April 4-May 24

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Painting the Niagara River below the Falls

The sun started out bright so I headed to the Niagara Reservation to paint the last of the snow. With the messy Terrapin Point construction and reconfigured roads there was little access to the Falls, so I drove around the park and decided to travel north along the churning Niagara river, hoping for a good view in a protected place. THe day was cooler by the river and I remembered that the 'private' cliff road was now open to the public, 6 parking spaces would be available. The 7th car would have to leave.

I took the seriously steep Power Authority road down to the fishing docks. It was pretty quiet, only one other car and there seemed to be a single person in the guardhouse. Parking crooked, I pushed my seat all the way back and painted this from the car. Warm, dry and a few podcasts later my painting was done and I was determined to come back in the summer to walk the paths that lead down to the water's edge. It seemed incredibly peaceful.

There are no giant islands of ice floating down the river and some fishing was going on, in fact, some boaters motored into my view. Spring is in the gorge. 

'Lower River Spring', 9x12 oil on birch c. 2016

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Brush with Adventure in Havana

Photo from Richard Sneary

Planning for Cuba, we were made aware of shortages of ordinary items, we were to bring what we would need such as paper towels and art supplies. In addition, we were encouraged to pack extra things to leave with the artists and people of Cuba.

I was easily able to collect a big handful of brushes to donate out of my studio. Then, I spoke to a friend who is a nurse and she mentioned their great need for dental health. By connecting to her friend at the University of Buffalo Pediatric Clinic, she obtained a shopping bag of child size toothbrushes. I was appalled at how I would never be able to transport all of them in my suitcase. I had spent days trying to pack the minimum paint tubes of the right colors, light weight canvases, clothing that could serve multiple uses, a single pair of shoes, leaving out my hairdryer, even bringing a smaller comb. I was determined to stay below the 20 kilos for the air shuttle to Havana.

Determined, I packed them into narrow plastic bags, forcing many more in even after the bags were full and then squished down into my suitcase. I decided the original paintbrushes would instead go to the students in Niagara Falls High School, art budgets covered minimum supplies and they would be appreciated.

Many artists brought brushes and art supplies to leave with the artists in Cuba, but the 100 brushes....pediatric toothbrushes....were for children. I was determined to bring them into a school so they could be given to classes, perhaps as part of a lesson. The guides said they couldn't bring me to a school, but perhaps an aid group would take them. I carried the bag with me for a few days and finally asked a teacher working with students on a square where the school was. I was pointed down a side street, walking, I finally saw a sign 'Primarie' and guessed I had arrived. With my most confident voice and demeanor I said 'For the teachers' and the guard reluctantly allowed me in. With luck and perseverance prevailing, he escorted me up to the 'Manager's Office' and we communicated with Google translate on the office computer, the first working bit of technology I saw all week. I wrote that classes could have a lesson about tooth care He asked me to stay to meet the teachers but I couldn't wait that long. Unfortunately I neglected to take school pictures to show University of Buffalo Pediatric Dental Clinic who provided me with the toothbrushes, but these photos were shared by artists on the trip. Wherever there was a public square there were organized games and activities of students, bright, friendly and happy.

Photos from Rhonda Thatcher MacKay
Rosemary and Symi from the wonderful handmade Rosemary and Co. Brushes in England graciously collected the artists' donations, this shows just one day's collection and a lot of brushes there are from their company. They collected and cleaned the donated items and took each day's supplies to the art college in Havana where they probably won't miss my little collection of studio brushes. On the last day we left all of our expendable items, Gamsol brush cleaner, bungie cords, clips, slippers, soap, whatever one could spare.
photo from Rosemary Thompson

Studio painting from a plein air reference.

Using my own plein air painting as a reference for a large painting is pretty unusual. I have 'tried' it twice before and although I like to work on large paintings I do not like to work from flat references. I have become used to working from life, in real places, with real items, real people, not photographs or paintings.

This is an original plein air painting, 'Slack' which is 9"x12". I did it at my favorite jetty, the end of Ohio Street in Long Beach NY in 2013.

I reproduced it in the winter of 2015-16 for a gallery that wanted large images of my ocean scenes. This was a challenge but also fun, and a bit frustrating. It was hard to capture the sparkle of a summer morning on the shore while I was standing in the studio with a snowy winter window view next to me. The larger rocks on the easel picture are the size of the original plein air painting. The painting is 30" by 40" and is curing in the studio now. It takes a long time for oil paint to thoroughly dry after the surface seems dry.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Plaza VieJa, Cuba, making connections

Plaza Vieja lunch
Starting the painting
I set my easel on a side street off Plaza Vieja in Havana to paint the brilliant yellow government restaurant (as opposed to Paladar restaurants, which are in private homes). While I was working, a hefty breeze tossed the building's green arch shade askew, although it isn't crooked in the photo I liked how it framed the umbrellas. Music constantly played from two different places, adding to the cacophony of construction behind me and neighborhood chatter.

While I was painting, a young lady, Lilian was watching. This wasn't unusual in Cuba, we were often watched and engaged with many people despite the language barrier. We talked for quite a while, she is a student at the Academy, equivalent to our high school. She had a pile of small white papers and a drawing pen, capturing tourist caricatures for tips was her job. Lilian preferred staying near me than working, saying I was nice. When I mentioned that all the plein air artists were nice, she could talk to anyone, I was branded as 'but you are really nice'. Apparently some tourists may reject the caricature artists rudely.

She is staying with a matron in Havana while she earns money, I'm not sure where that leaves her continued education or if the school is here. Her English is excellent and we talked about oil painting and my materials, our families, old Havana, the cars, people who passed by and all the things people discuss when they meet. She has two little sisters so I gave her some of my kiddie toothbrushes (a story for another post), some painting supplies and my bottle of Gamsol brush cleaner. Artists here use gasoline for brush cleaner, so our non-toxic Gamsol was welcome. 

I asked Lilian to do my caricature, the walk around artists here do a quick face picture in a minute or less but she crossed the alley, got comfortable and spent a bit of time drawing while I painted. And of course I also rocked and danced to the music. Her picture captured so much of Cuba for me, my new Cuba Invitational painter hat with the palette pin, the music, my joy and of course my easel set up. Jacqueline Allen (a member of my group) took my photo at this same site, compare see how this talented lovely young lady drew me.

All the people in Cuba were charming, but I feel I made a new artist  friend in Cuba and wish the best for Lilian. She refused to take any tips from me, because I was 'nice'. We met again later and I introduced her to some of the other painters in the square.

Drawing by Lilian

photo by Jacqueline Allen
the artist, Lilian at work