Monday, March 20, 2017

Carnegie Workshop

The Niagara Frontier Plein Air Painters created a workshop to educate the public about plein air and encourage more to share our activities, enjoy outdoors and create paintings. Even before the scheduled start time, interested  people were looking around, asking questions and collecting handouts as well as Plein Air magazine and the Liliedahl video catalog, both donated by the publisher for our event.

My talk was about various ways to pack and organize, how to eliminate extra weight and pare down the amount of supplies to paint outdoors. The display included a half French Easel, Guerilla Boxes, Laptop Pochades and even a tiny oil color set in a doll size suitcase box. People enjoyed seeing box adjustments including handles, brush holders, strategic holes drilled and different ways to organize for pastels and paint.

Waiting for Warm, Late Winter Plein Air

Perhaps life gets hectic when the weather warms. At least, I think it does, but winter has its own slower pace. Right now I am ready for the busy painting schedule that NFPAP has put together, so I have been playing with a variety of different materials.

The first painting is from an upstairs window view. A little bit of snow and a lot of sunshine inspired me to capture the blue shadows of the biggest cottonwood tree I have ever seen. It is at least three times the height of a two story peaked roof. About 100-150 feet away and across the street, if it ever came down we would have a huge mess and a bit of damage. I see this tree out of every window in the front, and it fills my view from bed as well. This was a pastel experiment, the paper had too much texture for me, perhaps I should have used the back. I think the same painting in oil would be more successful.

The second is a front seat in the car painting. I parked along the Robert Moses, recently renamed the Niagara River Parkway. A fairly gray and quiet day, the Niagara plume hovered in the gorge making the buildings of Niagara Falls Ontario appear to float or sit on the mist.  A famous chimney has been moved to the river side of the road and was given its own parking lot as well. It is a good place to just look and think.

Shadows of My Dreams, pastel 9x12 c.K Schifano
Niagara river, kath Schifano, Niagara Falls
A Chimney's View watercolor 6x9, c.K Schifano

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The March Exhibit announcement

The Dispatch posted this about the show. We just returned from Houston so I hadn't seen the paper on Friday, but on Saturday morning it was the subject of yoga class. I guess they recognized my photo even though we usually are upside down or have our eyes closed. Thanks to the paper for printing this announcement from the library.

Naturally, Grand Island

Living on an Island? Surrounded by water, and blessed with two state parks, overlooks and rural areas,  and some interesting views make it very easy to display a collection of Island paintings. There are nearly 30 paintings in this show at Grand Island Memorial Library and all of them represent Grand Island scenes. Except for the two florals every picture was made outdoors, between the bridges.

I couldn't help but title this exhibit "Naturally, Grand Island". I am so blessed to have so much beauty to surround me. Although a few paintings are from close to home, I could fill another exhibit with works that show the changing seasons right in my own yard. Missing a few labels and the sign, this is how the paintings look this month on the day they were hung.

Monday, February 6, 2017

New art show at the Memorial Library

Last fall I was asked to consult on the purchases of a hanging system for the Grand Island Memorial Library. It would be freestanding and the committee had already investigated various systems. All I had to do was suggest taller displays and a new configuration, considering the 3d space they would occupy. The library is a large open space and the art displays would be between the stacks and the reading room, equally available to viewing from all directions.

The display arrived and the staff has considered moving them a bit from the original plan, realizing that the artwork should be central and the stands adjacent to each other. A local artist shows a variety of paintings for this inaugural show.

I am invited to hang my paintings at the end of February and have chosen local Grand Island scenes to show my neighbors as they check out books, join meetings and bring their children to events. The local paintings will include views of our two state parks in all seasons as well as some area landmarks. I hope that other opportunities to show my work there will feature Niagara Falls, flowers, ocean views or travel paintings.

Staying creative with jewelry

A box of nostalgic family costume jewelry sat in the basement for entirely too long. Some of the 'better' pieces had been claimed by cousins, but Martha's well loved collection was still waiting for a purpose. She never left the house without a necklace and earrings, a pin on every jacket echoed the colors of her outfits. 

A bit of research to find the perfect glue for metal and plastic and a few weeks on the work table helped these three compositions create themselves out of the myriad of jewel boxes. Each includes a single gaudy Christmas tree, some tiny angels, loose pearls and love. Now mounted under glass in display frames and ready to display, they are going to the homes of her three granddaughters.

I haven't painted during the process but I felt creative and 'charmed' throughout the production of these new family heirlooms.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


After Fall exhibitions come down and collections of paintings are delivered to holiday gift shows, I like to take a break from creating paintings, clean and organize the entire studio, prepare surfaces for new work. Then I leave the studio and take up residence in my kitchen as the baker lady.

Cookies. The ultimate creative endeavor for the homebound. I enjoy the change of seasons out my spacious windows, but as the browns turn to grays in the woods the colors of dough, sprinkles and frosting light up my artistic side.

It's been a few weeks and several large home projects are complete, visiting has slowed down and it is time to return to the studio for a few bigger projects before sunshine and balmy weather calls me outside again. I have been itching to paint but have continued to draw. As soon as I uncover my table from a messy gluing project the paint and pastels will fly.
These is last year's photo but I made most of these again this year, doubling up on the chocolate ones and making the cuccidatis larger. That's it until next December. The creative season of dessert is over.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Something I re-learned in 2016

green and yellow, tree painting
Pastel. My original favorite medium beckoned me to stop using oil paints for a while. Although framing a pastel painting is more difficult (sealing the surface, making perfectly cut mats with spacers, using glass in the frame while still handling a fairly fragile powder media) the colors and reaction of the pastels to the surface is so exciting. The easy part is covering a fresh new pastel with glassine and adding it to the pile, no drying time is necessary.

After a weekend workshop in NYC with Nancie King Mertz I was energized and inspired to get back out with my plein air pastels. Early Fall beauty at the Tifft Nature Preserve with my Niagara Frontier Plain Air Painters friends made it easy to find good compositions. Choosing just one view to paint was hard, but the yellow tree leaning into the lazy creek became my subject. The fall sun was low and trees in the park were tall.  It was more about the brilliant yellow leaves in nature than the sun or shadows.

Autumn Glitter, 12.5x9.5, pastel. c. 2016 K. Schifano

Start with excellent photos

custom painting, schifano

Niagara Falls home, stone front house, kschifano

This series shows the progress of this recently delivered commission. I made several trips there in various weather and lighting conditions to get good reference photos. Facing north, it was a challenge to show their beautiful home through the trees but also in good light. It is entirely more detailed than I had planned to paint it, but the colors of the stone facade, various textured surfaces, interesting window treatments and a curved, railed porch were so interesting that I just got carried away.

Looking at the picture here, on a computer screen, it looks like a photo, but the full size painting is definitely painted and shows textures and strokes of my brush throughout. Dan and Jenna and their families were all surprised and pleased with this thoughtful gift from his parents.

On The Rivershore, 16x20 oil on canvas. c. 2016 K. Schifano 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

New paintings at PasiĆ³n

It's the holiday season and that means parties and special events. If you happen into the wonderful Cuban style restaurant "Pasion', my paintings from Cuba 2016 have been replaced with Buffalo area scenes. Besides these photos, there are more in the halls and by the bar. 

The very large paintings belong to the restaurant, these small ones are mine. Once winter gets intense I will change these for some warm weather flowers; with the music, fresh cuisine and flowers on the walls, Pasion may feel more like summer than winter in Buffalo.

Small Works Holiday Studio Show

Friday and Saturday, December 9 & 10 dawned cold and windy. After a mild fall the cold was a surprise and keeping the front door open got chilly whenever a cloud passed in front of the sun.
Nevertheless, I was ready and art work of small sizes were on the first floor and the gallery room was jam packed with just Niagara paintings. 
The studio is always full of drying paintings and new work and this weekend was no different. You can see here that I often neglect to post some spectacular paintings. As usual, all studio sales are discounted a bit with double discounts for my repeating customers. People like to see work inprogress, that painting is now finished and will be posted soon.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Back to My Roots?

flower painting, artist in Buffalo, plein air flowers, KSchifano

Flowers. First it was apples, and I learned to draw by using apples as my subject, over and over, as instructed by Walter Prochownik at UB in the 80's. It was flowers, not apples, that intrigued me and I later spent many years looking deeply into the lines, curves and details of all sorts of plants and flowers, working large and small in my tiny Niagara Falls studio as my practice improved.

Since I became a plein air artist I have spent many Thursdays in winter painting the flora and architecture of the Botanical Gardens, usually small and often with pastels.

For this painting, I was invited to show a wall full of work related to gardens at the Twentieth Century Club in Buffalo and chose to paint outside in their gardens while my work was up. I have painted there several times, choosing bits of architecture as my focus. I made several sketches, the garden statuary is quite attractive, there are fountains and sculpture, groomed trees and brilliant colors against an interesting Romanesque architecture.

At each column in the back, large pots of Canna Lilies and Begonias glowed in the light. These urns became my subject and I wound up surrounded by a large garden party while I painted. It was interesting to be in that space with so many people yet nearly invisible as my work transported me right out of the crowd and few were interested in what I was doing there.

Cannas and Begonias oil on board, 20x10 c.2016

Friday, November 18, 2016

There was a big public ruckus when Labatt decided to dress a six pack of grain elevators in plastic wrap, but I love them and still support the decision. they are in the process of converting them into a craft beer brewery, a beer garden and tourist destination. Next door, Riverworks is the site of multiple events, from late night drinking to roller derby races and weddings. Of course, winter turns the outdoor area into a very large ice rink, but on this day the flower pots cascaded on the patios.

This was painted across the Buffalo River in the new Festival Park, where we sat on contour benches under an arbor and enjoyed watching kayaks, tugs and sailboats on the water.

Labatt beer, bar in buffalo, Kath Schifano, craft beer, beer silo

Buffalo and Blue, 12x18 oil on panel, c. 2016

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Pastels in New York City

I completed one of my LongTermGoals! I needed a good kick to get back to using my extensive sets of pastels. There was a plein air pastel workshop sponsored by the American Pastel Society with Nancie King Mertz. She went to Cuba with us and had a neat pastel setup that I had admired, she also made A LOT of lovely pictures there. It took more than a week to decide and figure out transportation, housing and whether I really wanted to go.

It was not a teaching event, instead she did short demos each morning and then ran around to the painters, offering advice where needed and answering questions. There were about 12 of us, at all different levels and I was one of the few regular plein air painters who also used pastels. Most were studio painters who came for the plein air part, so there was a lot of baggage and various carts carrying supplies. I am pleased to brag that I only required my backpack and a folder for my pastel papers. I still was bulky getting in and out of the up and downtown subways, a good half hour ride in congested cars.

It has been a beautiful fall, but we needed rain and so, it rained and was also windy downtown for two days, we were pretty cold. The third day was beautiful and we painted on the HighLine. It was easier to work when it was overcast as the building colors remained consistent and shadows were not moving. The closest I have come to city building paintings are my grain elevators, this was different, a challenge in perspective, composition and execution and now I want to go back for more.
kath Schifano, looking north, highline, skyscraper
High Line Over 10th, 18x12 pastel, c. K. Schifano

pastel new york, gramercy Park, brick bar
Pete's Tavern, NYC, new and old, 18x12 pastel, c. K.Schifano

Artify Chestnut Ridge

Chestnut Ridge Park had an event 'Artify the Park' and it was a lovely sunny Sunday, so I took a ride down to see if the leaves were changing south of Buffalo and find some inspiration from the art events there. 

I had no plans to paint until I drove over a ridge to see this fabulous little building glowing in the afternoon sunlight. There were several painters around and I had my easel and paints with me, inspiration took hold and I parked.

The cottage in the woods look made me think of Thomas Kincaid's light paintings while I was working, and I was pleased to be painting alongside Judson Brown. He chose a stone structure across the road for his picture. Some college students came by and we chatted while one of them worked on his nearly complete painting, adding tree branches and details in the stone. I don't think I could turn my back on someone painting my picture!

Afterwards, I was intrigued by the colors on my palette, I had used all the warms to mix in the greens and it looked like a true abstraction of my completed painting.

Chestnut Ridge, Artify with Judson. 8x10 oil on canvas, c.2016

BlackRock Garden Fest

Almost finished
trumpet vine, kathy Schifano

  It's fun to remember the events of summer as the days grow short, leaf raking continues, the patio furniture is stored and indoor activities take over. Blackrock section of Buffalo had their own summer garden walk and I went with Diane Groupil to one of the homes to paint. A small area next to their garage had been converted into a pond and tinkling waterfall, surrounded by colorful plants, flowers and dramatic rocks. Off the garage a towering tree vine drooped yellow flowers....who could resist?

Black Rock Trumpet 9x12 oil on birch c. 2016

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Buffalo History Museum 'Paint the Town' Nov 3

An annual fundraiser for the Buffalo History Museum features both live and silent auctions of selected artwork. These are my two works in this year's 'Paint the Town' event, November 3. The gala is elegant and well attended and I'm pleased at the amounts my paintings have earned for the museum. Both of these were painted last spring during the Cherry Blossom Festival

Japanese Architecture, oil on panel, 5x7 c.2016

Looking Up History, oil on canvas, 8x10 c. 2016

Sunset painting in Long Beach

Speed Painting. It's the only way to capture the colors of a sunset. I'm pretty thrilled with how well I managed this one. It is painted on the border of Queens and Nassau counties looking west toward Breezy Point, Staten Island and New Jersey.

When I began, the sky was brilliant pink and I quickly painted the sand and sea. 

It wasn't windy so the clouds behaved for me, I'm glad I photographed the sky and painting in progress rather than when it was done. Moments later, darkness coated the sand, the ocean turned deepest dark and the colors quickly faded from the horizon. 

Waiting for the Full Moon, oil on canvas 9x12 c. 2016

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Flowers by Orange Cat

The 'Orange Cat' is a favorite coffee shop in Lewiston, with a line out the door and plentiful outdoor seating. With two days to spend at the festival, I set up my easel and captured these models on the patio. They must have had extra large coffees because they sat for a long time. 

'Flowers at Orange Cat' 12x9, oil on birch

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Pete's Tavern in NYC

I grabbed an opportunity to paint for a weekend with Nancie King Mertz. She is a pastel painter from Chicago who I met in Cuba and offered a workshop with the American Pastel Society by Gramercy Park.

Slightly damp, a bit of wind and temperatures around 60, we watched her do a street scene including the glorious white ConEd building, trees, apartments and cars. Fortunately there were protected spaces to do our work. I tried Nancie's alcohol under paint demonstration and will add this to my pastel process, I love how it fills some of the areas with color, ready for texture and details. 5 minutes at home and I fix a few little spots and be thrilled with his.

That rock between islands

One of my favorite places (I have several favorite spots) at Niagara Falls is the Three Sisters Islands. This area actually has 4 islands and some locals call the last one 'Little Brother'. I'm not sure if there was a brother, but I do know that anyone who wants to go there may have a death wish. The river flows so furiously that I've never seen or heard of anyone trying to get there. 

When I first visited, years ago, there was a large tree trunk wedged there, now there is a large rock visible. The depth of the water drops nearly a foot in just a few yards, it swirls and churns around this rock furiously. I always stop to admire its adamant defense of the space.

16x20 oil, not yet titled!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sights in Italy

A thousand travel photographs and each has its own story. Walking the ancient streets included ruins of Roman civilization as well as the glorious Renaissance. Marked with Latin, a language I suffered through for 6 years allowed me some translation skills I didn't know I retained. Triumphal arches celebrating battles and generals, church scripture and labels all brought me back to Latin class and the Gallic wars we endlessly translated.

Reflections on the Tibor, a regular view when walking, and between Trastevere and Capitoline HIll.

Absolutely ancient columns embedded in the early walls of Rome. We hopped off the tram here for an 'archeological spot' thanks to Charles, grabbing the next tram a few minutes later.

A side trip southeast, beyond the ancient walls included pizza from this pizza shop; just tell her how big a piece you want and it is priced by weight. And delicious.

Laundry still attracts me. In Cuba it is everywhere, but most city buildings in Rome have central courtyards and the lines are out of sight. This is in a bit more 'suburban' area.

Founded in 440AD, St. Peter in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli) was expanded in 1475, 20 Doric columns of the nave are from the original church. Michaelangelo's tomb for Pope Julius II here was to have originally been a towering wall including a series of giant sculptures by him. Only his Moses was completed before funds were halted and Julius was buried inside St. Peter's Basilica. One of the artworks I didn't want to miss, I was disappointed that the wall of sculpted figures was obscured by scaffolding as it is being restored. Nevertheless, the church is absolutely spectacular.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Hidden treasures

Walking Rome and Florence's streets is a wonderful visual adventure. I took photos of new and ancient symbols and curiosities on every street. I loved the Via Urbana walking street, just wide enough for single small vehicles and scooters. On the way back to our apartment I found this small brass marker in the street, that's my shoe to see the relative size. It marks where Catholic priest Don Pietro Pappagallo was arrested January 29, 1944 and assassinated March 24, 1944. He worked for the underground, aiding victims of Nazism and Fascism in World War II. Dying for freedom, I only feel awe of his memorial.

Schifano in Rome

Turning around from the marker, this little church on the hill was closed to us for renovation as well as Sunday services, but its low elevation and simple basilica shape belied ancient roots. Faded wall paintings and simple lines date this church to ancient times.

San Pietro en Vincoli

St. Peter in Chains is the English name of the church that contains a lighted and elegant box in an altar niche containing the chains that are beleived to have held Peter when he was imprisoned in Rome, but that was not my goal.

Michaelangelo's massive Moses was one of my top two mental wishes and it wasn't until the end of  a busy week that we finally walked through the massive doors of San Pietro en Vicoli. We cut through ancient Roman alleys and found hidden staircases between streets. Arriving a half hour early we used stone benches on the porch to rest and I drew the arch capital at the gate. I knew Moses would be on the front right wall but there were many of us waiting, so I started on the back left, amazed at the number of grim reaper and skull themed art works that seemed contemporary. The crowd thinned near the front and I was disappointed by extensive renovation scaffolding hiding the 3 story wall of sculptures. 

Michaelangelo was working on this tomb for Pope Julius II when he was summoned to paint the Sistine chapel. It is not as large or decorative as he had envisioned even though he kept returning to work on it. When Julius died the funding stopped and he wasn't buried here, and parts of Michaelangelo's plan were moved to other locations. Moses wore a dark shadow across his face from the steel pipe scaffold. This was a lovely, holy and dramatic space. I'll have to come back another time to see it all restored.