Sunday, March 18, 2018

A still life challenge

In progress!

This was my view at a Burchfield Penney Museum Sunday still life challenge. It was an open studio where an artist assembled a setup for the afternoon. Loving a challenge, I packed my paint kit. There was so much to see here that I spent a long time drawing the various objects on the table, trying to make sense of it. The individual items were mostly retro with many old dolls and stuffed critters, all with faces, as well as tangled socks, scarves and bric-a-brack. It was a visual delight but an artistic challenge.
My still life challenge.

I chose the ancient Kewpie doll but needed to create a busier composition, and boy did I achieve that.  As I finished, it needed something on the left to lead into the 'pile' so I used some basket colors to create an angle complementing the other lines. That's artistic license. So is the different time on the clock plate.

Completely unrelated to my usual subjects, this was fun yet difficult which makes it immensely satisfying. My title may be temporary, we'll see if I decide to change it.

Critters With Eyes, 9x12 oil on canvas c. 2018

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Putting color into a still life

My dear friend Raquel brought me a spectacular bouquet of tulips which kept expanding in the winter light, reaching taller and wider until I finally brought it into my studio in front of a canvas. What fun!! 

I hadn't worked larger for a while so I loved the challenge. The tulips continued to grow so I had to make artistic decisions about placement and not look back. Then they wilted, and drooped, but I wasn't finished so the artist in me had even more fun building form and light. As a simple still life of white tulips it was lovely but when I decided to add color it told its own story. 

Paintings often name themselves or rather a title comes to me while I'm working but this one eluded me. I posted the picture on Facebook and asked for help. Two Pink Tulips. Tulips Breaking Out. Spring Bouquet. In The Pink. I Will Wait For You. Just One More. Tulips From The Garden.  Beauty of Spring. Tulips Apart. Spring Splendor. Acceptance. Thank you, friends, I chose 'Color Doesn't Make Us Different ', suggested by my artist friend, Marolyn Corriere. 

The second photo shows my painting in progress and constant companion, Chiquita. She's on loan with us for a while and loves to be with us, wherever we are.

Color Doesn't Make Us Different, oil on canvas, 22x28 c. 2018

Monday, March 12, 2018

Out The Window and Fresh Snow

Winter plein air paintings are exciting. And FAST! However, I have become progressively lazier when it comes to painting outdoors in the winter. It was a weird winter season in 2017-18, sometimes cool, sometimes cold, but almost always the days were mostly gray. No shadows and no heat equal no incentive to paint outdoors. It was an easy winter to do errands or take a ride, but without the contrasts created by my friend The Sun, painting a landscape like this took a backseat to studio work this year.

This is my 'go to' subject which is the woods behind the house. A brilliant sun after a light snowfall inspired me to set up inside at the dining room window. I've been watching these cut tree logs since the neighbor cut several trees (which are permanently preserved in many earlier paintings). They seem to change each day, each week, sometimes like they have moved themselves. Naked trees quietly surround them, like mourners for a friend. I worked with color to distinguish the slices, to give them dignity in their sad state. The brilliant shadows of hibernating wetland giants slowly passed across the field as I painted.

I can still see what was there a year or two ago, and wonder about the title. It's a lovely calm winter painting but to me it is a requiem for the fallen trunks.

fallen trees, forest, winter, purple and blue

Standing Tall For Me, oil 12x16 on linen c.2018

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Keep the cookies in the cookie jar

I took this drawing from a product design website after I finished my cookie jar painting (below). Before I painted I had made several drawings and had a bit of a challenge to figure out the extension on the lid, it dipped a bit and stuck out, but the plastic didn't hold light or shadow to create the form correctly. I certainly could not attempt a painting until I solved a drawing, but I eventually did. 

The top in the illustration might have helped me see the differences in the shapes.

Whatever. The cookies tasted particularly good, but after we had eaten some of them I saw a painting. Another kitchen item was moved upstairs to the studio for a few days. The first time someone asked "What happened to Elizabeth's cookies?" (my niece had baked and brought them in the jar for Christmas) I was tempted to say "What cookies?"

This crazy shaped, tilted top cookie jar is preserved forever in paint and the contents were delicious. Perhaps this will be next year's Christmas card.

cookies in a jar. nut balls

She Brought Cookies, 10x7 on oil paper c.2018

Fall Harvest Sideline

I enjoy slicing, peeling, seeding and cooking fresh vegetables in various combinations, but mostly eating the products of my kitchen time. 
I happened to have an abundance of fresh vegetables on the counter when I noticed an interesting composition with a giant German Red garlic bulb right about the time I had a hankering to push some  oil paint around. The bright red basket usually holds our Christmas cards and was temporarily commandeered to keep the squash and tomatoes. I considered rearranging things but decided the natural grouping was already good. The basket went with me straight to the studio after I added some refrigerated blackberries on the left for balance.
Days later,  the acorn squash tasted particularly good, maybe spending a week in the art room before cooking gave it some extra flavor. I know I am always better after my time in the studio!

Winter Vegetable Basket, oil 9x12 c.2017
Winter Vegetable Basket, Kath Schifano

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

An interesting development

When I saw clear bags in an email from Judson Art I clicked the link to see if the prices and package sizes would suit my needs. They did! But a few days later I received an email from apologizing for using the image of my painting in their advertising without giving me credit.

Oh my, I saw the ad but didn't notice my own painting! 

I said no problem just add my name in the future. The email reply was "whew!"  Apparently someone else had taken a big offense in the past or they misjudged me as a typical New Yorker who would be litigation happy. Nope, not me. If you click the link, you will see the ad and a credit that I painted it.

The painting is "Sunflowers From the Porch"

Friday, December 22, 2017

2017 Christmas card, finally

holiday painting, art by Kath, tree decorations
Bright Dreams, 5x7 c. K.Schifano

For some unknown reason, we did not send our annual homemade cards for the past two years. After 40 years of designing, writing and mailing them it should have been natural. In fact, it felt unnatural to NOT send Christmas cards. I was not inspired to paint a Christmas appropriate or red flower scene when the weather was warm and snow hadn't arrived. In fact, I often don't paint seriously from mid November through New Year's so I can concentrate on family, gifts and baking buckets of cookies. Baking is certainly an alternate art form. Though I have considered working on the card in August that has never happened, part of my tradition is the December rush.

Some of the most entertaining cards were drawings years ago by Charles or Robin, printed in green or blue or red (or black at first, before colored inks were possible) on white typing paper. Santas, Rudolph or funky decorated trees in my file still make me smile.

Maybe the problem of no little kids was solved this year. As I sat in my allergist's office, waiting 30 minutes for my shot reaction to not happen, there was this sweet artificial tree tucked in a corner and a little boy reading aloud, a girl squirming on granny's lap and two preteens. And this tree in the corner. I sketched it in my ever-present moleskin drawing book and took a photo.

 It didn't take long to turn it into a painting. With help from Carl my painting was laid out and printed as our 2017 Schifano card. They may have been mailed a bit late, but the deed is done! Merry Christmas, and here is a toast to good traditions.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

An evening at 700 Bistro

  A sweet coffee shop by day and a wine bar at night, 700 Bistro in Lewiston hosted an artist evening. The emphasis was wine with chocolate, how could that be wrong? 

This shop is directly across from my Lewiston Art Festival tent site in August, so I had an opposite view.  I brought a single large painting and a selection of 5x7s, ideal for gifts. It turned out to be a lovely evening, art and wine is the perfect blend.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thanksgiving Plein air?

Thanksgiving week in Texas is perfect weather for outdoor work, in my case, it is perfect for outdoor painting. I used triple coats of clear gesso on a smooth board to keep its natural brown under color and lightly sketched the shapes. As I worked I realized the clouds were about to change, so the sky would be fairly clear in less than an hour. Although I was with my old French easel in full shade to work (play!) the fluctuations of sun and clouds on the landscape would make working accurately difficult.  My scene kept changing. 

I started with the sky and captured the clouds as fast as I could right down to my planned horizon. It worked, as they blew into the east and I gained the advantage of steady sunlight to complete the picture.

Located at the edge of a fairly dense community, this interesting scene provided me with a bit of variety and a joyful afternoon. I used a limited set of paints, a total of just 5 tubes. A standard Red, Yellow, Blue and a dark brown modified each other with White to create new colors. I probably have more natural and varied greens here than when I carry tubes of green. There is a lesson right there.

Long after my travel headed towards home, I realized my painting was left behind. I may see this again in a few months when I make a return visit.

Tanked, 12x16 oil

Using Pastels on Autumn Days

As the days grow short and evening comes earlier, the shadows seem darker and are definitely longer. It's the best season to paint, because shadow creates form and landscape painting is the process of making a 3-D form look real on a flat surface. The shadows and reflections are the depth makers in a picture, besides using perspective, overlapping and diminishing sizes. Oh my, sometimes my brain hurts trying to keep it all together, but it is a good kind of hurt, like rewarding and satisfying work. 

Therefore, my fall paintings have a distinct set of values and colors different from summer. These two recent pastels illustrate this, the sunlight in the trees is at a lower angle....because the earth is curved and my northern latitude is tipping away from the direct rays. Working on them, I also considered the depth of shadows in the background and between and under trees. The sparkle of summer flowers and green grass is gone when shade takes over.

plein air

Red and Blue by Bonds Lake 9x12 pastel
Willow by Little Beaver Island 9x12 pastel

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Tea Time and Urban Sketches in Ireland.

I always carry my little moleskin drawing book, but added a 5x7 sketchbook to my purse for a trip to Ireland. We stayed in Dublin, walked the city to see museums and sights for 5 days and then rented a car to take day trips. We went to Galway and drove along the Wild Atlantic Way, spent a day each in Howth and DunLaoghaire, Wicklow and Glendalough. 

A cold brewed coffee setup attracted my attention in a lovely little coffee shop in Dublin. I should have left my card, the girl in the drawing took a photo of my painting and she probably has a million followers asking 'Who did that?'

One of the first dinners out with Charles was in this lovely wine bar/pub. The chairs were each printed with notable wine labels and they were probably the most comfortable seats of all the places we ate. We feasted on a cheese platter and a bottle of wine while it rained for a short time. Afterwards, I took a few photos of the lights reflecting on the rain-wet streets. Making memories.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Finally, I resolved this problem

Niagara River, Niagara painting
In October 2016, I posted this painting in progress, incomplete and still on my easel at Three Sisters Islands. There was something about it that kept my interest but also bothered me. I finally figured it out this summer when I stood closer to the rock and studied it. I needed to paint the transparency of the underwater part of the rock. In one minute in the studio I added a few drops of paint and it was done. And I like it much better.

The 4th Isle at Three Sisters, 16x20 oil on canvas panel c.2016

Monday, October 9, 2017

Working with a dark background

seasonal flowers, color experimentClematis buds, about to open, are the second flowering of this climbing plant.  The fluffy light parts are from the previous blooming, the petals fall and the center turns into a pompom. It always flowered with the first brave buds the first week of June, but lately has been covered with open blossoms by then, the Clematis is starting to open in mid-May

This is a 'test' pastel of newly acquired skills using color to create strong contrast and interest. I think it turned out just fine.The paper was 16x20 but it had to be trimmed to remove all my color tests on the edges. I didn't expect it to work this well or I would have done my color tests on another page.

Crossing Seasons 16x10 pastel c.2017

Broderick Park in Buffalo

I"ve been frequently drawing in a 6x8 sketchbook lately. Using a permanent black pen with archival ink the drawing is created, followed by watercolor to develop the picture.
This view shows my location on Unity Island, across from the 190 headed to downtown Buffalo. This park is recently updated and actually quite large even though it looks skimpy from the highway.

Two interruptions to the scene included bells ringing, traffic stopping and painters delayed while th Miss Buffalo glides under the bridge. This is really fun to watch.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Danielewicz Farm Sunflower paintings

Facing The Wind
I've Got A Secret
Yellow Joy
These are three of the four paintings completed during the Labor Day weekend sunflower extravaganza. It was the most exciting time as everyone was happy and excited to experience the acres of beauty. Each of these is pastel, I also made a large oil picture, yellow flowers and blue sky blazing.

Thursday, August 31, 2017


 Wow. I saw pictures on FB, a lovely color spread in the Buffalo News, how could I resist? 

A few weeks ago my favorite painting of sunflowers was purchased for a presentation at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. When I saw photos of this field I knew it was time to paint more sunflowers. A chance to see another field involved several hours of driving so I didn't go. Now I could find one 15 minutes from home in Sanborn.

This field was just an idea last year, farmland owner Louise thought planting sunflowers would be novel but had no idea it would turn into a media event. I met her kids and friends as well as dozens of people stopping on the road to take selfies and family photos, a pro photographer was shooting a model with reflection umbrellas and Channel 4 news appeared. (I was interviewed) Cars lined both sides of the street and the mood was jubilant, how could one not be overjoyed to engage with acres of yellow?

Yellow isn't a common color to use  a lot on my palette when Plein Air painting, yellow items often look more tan unless it is fall leaves. This was an opportunity to collect all my out cool and warm yellow sticks, some hot golden orange with some purple for shadows, light blue to capture the leaf lights. Why ever I selected terra cotta red for my background is unknown but I love the contrast. 

This pastel painting is still taped to the board, waiting for the decision, stop now or keep working. It's looking pretty fine in my house right now.
Louise, responsible for this lovely event.

 A panorama that doesn't do justice to the size of this field of flowers. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Carl Judson visits Niagara Falls

Guerrilla Painter and Judsons Art Outfitters are well known suppliers of plein air materials. Judsons is a family businesses, you deal directly with them when you place an order. Carl Judson often travels to conventions, art events and paintouts in his very cool personalized truck. Several years ago I invited him to stay with me and speak to NFPAP while he was in the area, visiting Hyatts and Partners in the Arts. He joined us again on this trip east. We were lucky to meet Sarah this time, she had joined him for part of his trip.     

The evening they arrived, we took a walking tour of Niagara Falls to see the nightly fireworks. It was a warm and misty summer night and the occasional breeze from the east brought a soaking mist which left us fairly drenched at the Horseshoe Falls. The air was filled with static and our hair stood up straight, except for Carl Judson who was smart enough to wear a hat.

Carl and Sarah Judson, Me, Carl Schifano
The next morning, Kelly Buckley hosted us at the radio station for her WJJL talk show and WNY heard about his roundabout experiences leading to the design of his first plein air box, or pochade. It is always a treat to talk to Kelly, on the radio and off and I am glad this opportunity occurred.

Carl Judson at WJJL interview
That afternoon he gave an art talk at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center. He presented many slides of new and familiar painters and the styles they used, talking about expressing personal vision and showing plein air as a natural progression in art history.

It was a day of torrential rain and my phone was texted, "our car turned around with a broken wiper" and "I can't get through the deep water on my street". I think our enthusiastic but wet crowd of 25 might have been much larger without the unusual weather. Driving with Carl in his truck, there were moments of no visibility even at very slow speed. After the presentation there was an interesting question and answer discussion.
Charlie Hunter's painting made an appearance
Before the Judsons left, we talked a bit about my own work, this oil painting was displayed in my hallway and it went with them to Colorado. One of my favorites (I have many favorites), it is "From the Porch at 39 Ohio".  After a week of painting ocean and jetty paintings I was charmed by this morning view of sunflowers across the street. It inspired me to make one last painting on the day we left the beach. Returning there this year, there are only two sunflowers left, a lawn was planted and all that remains is this picture.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Calendars return for 2018

Surprise! They are back. In 2006 I printed 50 calendars for friends and I sold some to help pay my expenses for the cases and the print shop. For the next ten years Carl continued to layout 12 new images to publish and many were purchased for gifts or personal use and others I gave to repeating customers and friends and family. The number of printed calendars went up through the years and they were sold in gallery and museum shops.  No one is going to get rich doing this but it is a pleasure to share my paintings and hear what people like.

I decided to skip the year 2016 and was surprised by some very upset people! Actually I missed having the calendar myself and used a 2006 set again as the dates matched this year. Some people mailed requests for refills and I had to send them the 'no calendars' message. 

January shows my favorite new Falls painting, a pastel named 'Power' which I also put on my new business cards.

If you are interested I am ready to fill orders. $12 for a refill, or $14 for a calendar in its unique stand up case. Text, email, call or comment!

Finding quiet on the Richmond roundabout

 Kleinhan's music hall, Symphony Circle, Olmsted Parkway system, where am I? 

Behind the big old First Presbyterian church with a recently restored bell tower is a secluded entrance. A small garden was growing near the sidewalk. The elegant birches growing against dark medina sandstone bricks stood out like spotlights and the stained glass glimmered a bit from the interior lights. It was so peaceful away from the traffic circle. There was even a table for me to settle my art supplies. So that is where I chose to paint, at peace in the midst of the city.

Keystones at First Presbyterian, 12x16 oil on board, c.2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Urban Sketching

 On River Road, across from Smith Boys Marina.

 Urban sketching is actually internationally recognized as a form of art. Working in a small sketchbook, with the time that I have, I capture whatever is in front of me. These are permanent and archival pen drawings, embellished with a bit of watercolor. Neat, clean, easy to store.

A friend's hollyhocks against the house.

Across from Bidwell Market.

Lewiston Art Festival 2017

On my way, packed safely and ready to go. This car is a bit smaller, by about 1/3 than my previous SUV so the tent, display walls and art is here, but our chairs, side tables and rain umbrellas are in Carl's car.

The whole shebang, on Saturday at a quiet moment. This picture is often difficult to take as the crowds in Lewiston fill the street. On Sunday we rehung the left and right walls by switching them.
My favorite wall! I did a series exploring color combinations. It started in a Marla Bagetta workshop but I kept painting the same scene, limiting my palette to a very few pastel shades and tints. 8 of these little paintings are the same composition!

Billy Wilson park

Peaceful days in the park create memories. This outing was a return to Billy WIlson Park, a marshy and wooded wetlands with wonderful boardwalks about 4 feet above the forest floor. It is a great place for a peaceful walk, a stroll with children or to stop and paint. There is an occasional bench as well as wide areas to set up an easel. Geese cackle and squawk and lift off with loud splashes from the pond to fly in great circles overhead.
This is a very symmetrical depiction of the walkway from the grassy area. I was attracted by the green grasses of this year pushing up between long golden grasses of fall's stalks, their reflections in the water and the distant light on them.

plein air in the park, trees frame a picture, green and blue
Bridge at Billy Wilson Park, 9x12 oil on canvas panel c. K Schifano 2017

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Summer Tourist trapped!

Kathy Schifano
Friday on the Overlook
I stole an afternoon and paid the dollar entry fee to paint on the overlook bridge by Prospect Park at Niagara Falls with Rachelle. Apparently a zillion tourists had the same idea.

We nestled against the tower elevator wall, out of sight to many and out of everyone's way as well but they found us. As usual, kids had the most interest and were often pulled away by parents eager to see the waterfalls but not interested in leaving their children behind. 

Rachelle Duzynski at work with pastels
One particular family spent time watching, asking questions and sincerely admiring Rachelle's pastel of the American falls. She hadn't painted in a very busy public area before and wasn't hearing the conversation, I wasn't aware how intense the crowded bridge was for her. The Granddad said his 42nd anniversary was coming and wanted to buy her (very unfinished) painting as a gift. Suddenly aware, she thought he wanted mine. It wasn't until the child was sent to get money from Grandma that the reality set in. What fun, first time in a crowd and her first sale off the easel! 

Afterwards, I added a bit of warm color to the river and the mist, not shown in the first photo. And yes, the Maid of the Mist is that small by the tremendous Niagara Falls.
Our view of both waterfalls from our spot
Rachelle Duzynski"s painting, sold to a Texan tourist.

Urban sketching at Bidwell Market

I went to the Bidwell Saturday market and bought a fruited ice tea and some vegetables and looked around for an inspiration. It turned out to be Cafe Aroma and Talking Leaves Books across Elmwood Avenue. I had new waterproof fadeless pens and a sketchbook set in the car. A large tree provided shade for my chair.

The farmer's booths were closer to the park's edges so I wasn't in a busy spot. As I drew, people came in and out of the cafe, some seated outside, bicycles and dogs, carriages and wheelchairs were all in and out, giving me choices. The curve of the building was an interesting challenge, windows were varied, and there was a lot of detail at the first floor roofline such as columns, brickwork, decorative plaques, lamps and signs. 

The best part of my day was an itchy feeling on my heel by my shoe strap which I ignored at first. Suddenly it was painful, like a cat digging claws in hard! I looked down at a cicada attempting to crawl my lovely leg while I painted watercolor on the picture. They have huge sharp grabber feet to climb trees. Having lots of cicada experience on Long Island, I removed him or her to the tree trunk, where it began a long climb up the ragged bark. At about 4 feet, it began to molt, I forgot to look at the bug's progress before I left, but I am sure the shell is still on the tree. I didn't hear it fly away and regret not looking back. As more land it developed there are fewer cicadas, their 13 or even 17 year wait to come out of the ground has been abbreviated by humanity.

A new site!

Reinstein Woods in Cheektowaga is simply another WNY jewel. It is tucked between several popular roads but seems like it is in the midst of a wilderness. Even the approach to the park is rural, the parking lot has a huge solar panel in the middle to power an information board. The visitors building is a short pleasant walk from the car.

Several paths led to water or woods and I met up with East Aurora and NFPAP painters on a path between two water features, a marsh and a pond. I didn't go any further than this turn in the path, it was so tranquil and rustic. this was my first time here and I will return next time a paint out is scheduled.

As quiet as the park is, several young groups came through on tours, couples walked dogs, photographers quietly snapped nature. It's fun to be an artist as people comment as they pass and then they return to see how much more has been painted. 

Path at Rienstein, 9x12 oil on birch c.2017