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.


At Santa Maria Maggigore, a wedding

Rome, Italy. An opportunity to visit noted paintings and sculptures I exhorted as a high school art history teacher for so many students finally occurred. I created a mental list of 'must see' as well as as a written list of required locations. Little did I realize that every single lane and road would have multiple basilicas and sights to add to my list. It did not matter that I had no idea what to expect as I passed through most doorways, it was always a treat. In fact, the most severe facades and plainest entrances presented the most surprises. 

 A fortified entrance with tents for purse and bag inspection attracted us and the line was quick. It turned out to be one of the oldest and best preserved churches, built in 432AD when Popes were becoming the political leaders as Rome fell to the Goths. The ancient mosaics glowed among the newer paintings and sculptures. This basilica layout had traditional side aisles, unlike many others we visited, as well as an apse that was closed to us. Bernini grew up in this neighborhood and is buried near the altar.

A wedding or a procession was in preparation and it appeared to be for a group from India, with young women gathered in white saris bordered with gold threads, and young men in white shirts were erecting a tall sparkling silver maypole contraption out in the front plaza, colorful umbrellas bursted from bags, bright blankets laid on the perimeter fence and two nuns in soft gray habits carefully decorating the altar with bunting. Comparing the ancient church and the modern wedding traditions was a culture and time blending experience.





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.