Monday, January 31, 2011

Be Safe

Another big storm is coming in. "Where are we going to put it?" is the common phrase about.

Like most folks around here, I'm shoveling in preparation. Clearing the deck and some of the roof because of weight concerns. Stocking up on calcium chloride in case of ice. Nursing aching muscles.

Enough of that. Color and Light by James Gurney is my library's latest addition. Just getting started so there's not much to say yet but my general impression is that this is a very comprehensive read. The author's blog, Gurney Journey, is not to be missed. Do check it out if you're not already a follower.

My friend George has put together another ocean shore slide show and I'd like to share it with you.

And... please be safe and take care!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Winter's Perspective

A seasonal palette. Thankful for the hanging on beech and oak leaves to add a bit of warmth to the otherwise violet shadows and blue skies and spotty greens of southeastern Massachusetts.

With the threat of another storm soon to arrive, today was ice dam (transposed works just as well) day. Pulling snow from roof edges and gutters. Calcium chloride on top of that. I thought I might climb upon the roof and trim some weight. Alas, the ladders are buried under ice and snow. Good excuse. ;-)

Days after the storm, snow pointing northeast still sticks to trees.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bird Followup

Here's a shot of the hawk that I previously passed by as the sharpness was lacking, but does provide a good clue for identification. (See Gretchen's comment from yesterday for details. Thanks Gretchen!)

And here's another shot that didn't make it into recent bird shots. What's a winter scene without a bright red cardinal? :-)

Friday, January 28, 2011

An Extraordinary Day

While preparing for my Boston trip, a quick glance out the window sent me scrambling for the camera. The 100-400 mm was already in place so just a quick ISO check was needed. I grabbed a series of shots through the slider before opening for a cleaner image. The bird didn't move!

I am leaving the identification open to those with experience. This post will provide some history and reference on an earlier raptor ID by Gretchen.

Later... I'm thinking maybe Red-Tailed?

I visited the Arden Gallery on Boston's Newbury Street to view the egg tempera paintings of Koo Schadler. Jaw dropping good, it was. I mean, awesome. Lots of red dots too. Also on exhibit was the egg tempera work of husband and wife team Scherer and Ouporov.

If that wasn't enough, there was also an unadvertised exhibit of the exquisite egg tempera and gold leaf work of Fred Wessel. I remember his "Giana" and "Anticipating Bacchus". His brushwork is fascinating. Minute strokes of many colors, following form, that is not apparent in the photos. The lighting was so, so fine that I really don't have words for it. I actually felt the glow coming off the panel.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Will It Ever Stop?

About a foot of new and heavy snow arrived overnight. All dug out and the feeders are full.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Closer To Notan?

Well, I think this is marginally closer to balanced than yesterday's image. My registration faults become more obvious, to the point of distraction. Hmm...

A couple of points on one of the book examples might shed some light here:

 "The white area has the quality of thingness and reality for two reasons: it combines convex forms with the threat of a pincer-like movement."

Ouch! Cool, eh?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Control of Positive and Negative Space

Quoting the assignment:

"Design and arrange three identical patterns in sufficient tension with one another to create three negative shapes that have an exchange value with the positive shapes."

Do we have an exchange value here? My initial impression is that the white shapes are where I go first. I can shift my focus to the black shapes, but I seem to gravitate back to the white shapes.

There are examples of successful Notan images described as:

"...demonstrates that the artist has ceased to discount the invisible as nonexistent and now gives it an equal reality with the positive."

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Start on Notan Exercise 3

There is a lot of setup work for this exercise. First is to cut out three black strips 3x10". Fold each in half lengthwise. Create a design and apply and cutout to each strip. I went astray while trying to cut out all three strips at once without any kind of mechanism to keep the registration. That's why the third strip is missing! It's late so tomorrow I'll make up a new third and continue on.

It just strikes me now that this exercise might lend itself well to a Photoshop implementation. But still, there is probably something to be said for the real hands on experience.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A New Mop

I stumbled upon this brush while shopping the local Michaels Arts and Crafts for Notan supplies. It's a 3/4" Cotman Mop and so incredibly soft. I thought it might make a good wash brush for egg tempera.

The answer is a resounding yes! Too bad I began with some rather rich layers, particularly near the top of the panel. See those yucky lines? Further below, a lighter Viridian softened and smoothed.

This is just a little break while I digest the extensive text of the Notan third exercise. Besides, so many times these days when I look up into the sky I am pondering how I could possibly render that beauty with egg tempera. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Negative Shapes With Positive Reversals

Notan exercise 2 is the expansion of a square using positive and negative shapes. The exercise can be completed using either symmetrical or asymmetrical design. Symmetrical usually involve combining straight edged and curved edge patterns to provide interest. When using asymmetrical design, one must try to provide balance in similar fashion to exercise 1.

This design was built with white and black Stonehenge printmaking paper using a glue stick and X-Acto knife.

Joyce sent this along today. Nice examples of eye/brain interpretations. Thanks Joyce! :-)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Asymmetrical Balance 3

If the first exercise was about the black spots and the second about the not spots (white ground), this last exercise combines both! We are to think of the image as black rocks in white water. No longer are we alternating between portions of the picture.

From Notan:

"The rocks and the water will become equally important, equally real. This is the creation of Notan."

As I try to visualize the water current flowing around and between the rocks, I ponder the connections among these three exercises. What seemed to work in exercise 1, my third image, doesn't feel open enough to allow for water to flow well around the rocks here. Visualizing negative space in exercise 2 seemed to work out okay for all three images.

I can imagine a scene of active current and ripple patterns playing against the rocks. I need to really look at water and its behaviors as it meets opposition. I think I'd have a better feeling and stronger visualization if I had a locked in sense of water's motion.

"Notan was found when the spaces between the forms became one unified form flowing like a mountain stream around and between the rocks or positive shapes, sealing the whole design into an organic whole."

Well, that concludes the first objective, asymmetrical balance. My takeaway here is the gestalt of the combination of foreground and background, positive and negative space, black and white (or high-contrast values).

The next exercise expands on design with "Negative Shapes With Positive Reversals" and we'll cover this objective in just one post.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Asymmetrical Balance 2

Yesterday's exercise was about creating an asymmetrical situation. It required holding a sense of the objects and their relative placement. It was all about "balancing asymmetrically five positive shapes or weights to create a shift of attention from one area to another."

The second exercise works with the very same previous images but now we are to imagine the objects are holes. Think of them as nothing at all. Another spin is to imagine "looking at a piece of solid white wood full of empty black holes".

Another quote from Notan, The Dark-Light Principle of Design:

"The visual exchange--the perception of a shift from things to no-things, from no-things to things--is a characteristic of Notan."

So in the first exercise, the black blobs were objects. It was all about them. Background wan't really a consideration. With today's exercise, the white is the object and the blobs don't exist.

One final quote:

"Do not hurry with this exercise. Like plants and trees, we create at the same rate that we grow--very slowly. Though we are always trying to force ourselves to rush at the rate of machines, our pace n this work cannot be rushed."

Hopefully not in too much of a hurry, we'll wrap up the Asymmetrical Balance exercises. I'll bet you know where this is going... :-)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Asymmetrical Balance 1

The first exercise involves achieving asymmetrical balance. Think of this as compared to symmetrical balance, either radial (snowflake, daisy) or bilateral (butterfly wings, many leaves).

Here I work with a 10 x 12" white paper with five various sized irregular but still rather smooth shapes. The idea is to create a balance that feels right while staying clear of any symmetrical balance. Although the exercise called for somehow pasting the black blobs, I laid them all out on the floor and shot down on them. This will actually prove most useful for some upcoming exercises, and it let me get in a few examples for critique here.

My first example probably missed the mark with those two smaller blobs along the bottom. Isn't that symmetry glaring? One might also say the same about two largest--at least they have some angle to them.

This next example seems slightly better but notice how we have a large and a small--how each pair lines up exactly with each other. Nope, I did not notice this while laying out the blobs.

Does this last example come close to asymmetrical balance? Well, kinda sorta close, I think. My best shot.

This is a fun exercise! It's all about finding and developing one's own sense of balance. My little Notan book is so full of text going along with this exercise. I will present some in tomorrow's post when we go a little further into these examples.

If you find this interesting, I encourage you to pick up a copy (only $8.95 at Amazon) and give it a try. Or, you can just live vicariously through me. I don't mind. ;-)

And ya, I know... these images look like either a Jersey cow or a Gateway computer box.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


A few new books streamed in today. Some of them will best serve as reference but this little book is all about doing, a series of exercises to open one to the interaction of dark and light. I will try at least the first exercise once I collect the needed materials.

Googling "Notan" provides many tutorials, images, web sites, and blogs. I will try to focus mainly on this little book. A few select quotes from this book's forward:

"Notan is a Japanese word meaning dark-light. The word, however, means more than that. The principle of Notan as used here must be further defined as the interaction between positive (light) ad negative (dark) space."

"The Western culture thinks in terms of opposed dualities and attaches the moral values of good to the positive, and bad to the negative. Or we seize upon the positive as the only reality and dismiss the negative as invisible and nonexistent."

"To understand Notan, therefore, requires a special effort on our part; it demands a totally new orientation to seeing."

Monday, January 17, 2011

From My Kitchen Window

Ever have days when the cold feels, well, really cold? Now, I did go out for errands but snapped these while warmly inside. (I gotta say that processing photos on the new iMac is simply dreamy--excellent color and detail; fast.) Click a photo for a larger image.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rosemary Details

This evening I tried detailing the stem and realized that I'd missed out on how leaves join to the substems and how they in turn join to the stem. I had to do some lifting as well as new work. There's more to go but I have got a lot down. Which brings up that ominous question, "When do I stop?"

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Pull Of Technology

I made it! I'm all Apple! I picked up a MacBook Air today. In fact, I'm posting from it. At less than three pounds, this is truly a laptop.

Everything is wireless. Both Macs are talking to each other. Adobe software installed and registered on both machines.

Now it's back to the art.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Just Playing Around

I figured that a break from the rosemary was in order, so I played around with acrylic glazes. The medium is so completely different for me. I feel clumsy! This is all good though because as I go from medium to medium, I gain an appreciation of each.

For instance, coming back to watercolor after weeks of mixing dry pigment and egg yolk left me with a real appreciation of the qualities of each watercolor pigment. I can better feel the pigment grain size, how it settles into the watercolor paper fibers. Staining versus non-staining is suddenly a glaringly obvious property. Noticing how quickly pigment settles out of a bowl of wash, which pigments need more attentive stirring, can be appreciated for what it is, rather that some kind of annoyance. I've been working under my 4x Optivisor, able to see the fibers lift up when wet and settle back down as the moisture wicks away and evaporates.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rosemary - Closing In

There's more tweaking to come--balancing the leaves and working the stem. I'm wondering whether to continue or take a break. I don't want to chance overworking this piece--I'm seeing a few trouble areas and perhaps taking a little planning time would be prudent.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I hope my New England readers are all safe and sound. About a foot here, some it very heavy. I am sore! I was lucky to keep power but lost internet for most of the day.

There was some progress on the rosemary. More on that in the next post.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rosemary Continued

Phew, this is consuming hours on end! One more good session should get me all the way through the leaves. I think then I can go back over them all to solidify.

Stem color has been a real challenge. I found that straight Violet Hematite from Natural Pigments is a rather close start. There is a lot of stalk texture to add that I think will center the leaves.

Here's a great article on egg tempera that I recently ran across in the newsletter.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Slow Creep Down the Stalk

I'm working my way down, leaf by leaf. And soon, I'll need to figure out how to paint the stalk. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Back to the Rosemary

I'm going back over this rosemary watercolor leaf by leaf with Permanent Sap Green and Davy's Gray. It's really slow going.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

An Acrylic Foray

Here's a few hours play with my new toys. At this point, my favorite brush is the fan because it can blend so well. These paints dry quickly--that is, on both support and palette. Of course, I forgot my instructions to spritz the palette as needed. This painting is based on an earlier image done first in graphite for my Cornell class and then later in watercolor with my version of the Zorn palette.

Friday, January 7, 2011


I know... What next? But, there is a good reason!

Koo Schadler's "Old Master Design Workshop" works surprisingly in acrylics. She feels that this fast moving medium is better suited than egg tempera for learning and experimenting with technique. I plan on attending this class in June and want to gain some experience. Where am I going to keep all this stuff? :-) Thanks go out to Gretchen for her thoughts on my starter set!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Little Bit More

I'm pushing up the values and started the stem. It's a real challenge to start homing in on true colors--especially because although these colors are certainly not true, I really like them! :-) Mixing Green Gold with Oxide of Chromium provides a great range of greens.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Few More Layers

For the shadows I moved away from Ultramarine and tried Oxide of Chromium--it has the strength to go deep and stay green. Tomorrow is stem day.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

First Layers in Watercolor

Here's a first cut at my second try with rosemary, this time in watercolor. What a blast! Just a bit Green Gold and French Ultramarine Blue in light mixes. Such a distinct pleasure to again try this medium. Oh, and so easy. I walked away from a mix for an hour and came back to no change, just ready for more. Awesome.

No, this doesn't mean I am scrambling my remaining eggs. Just ready for a bit of a change. And who knows, this painting may turn out to be a keeper. ;-)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Back To Work

I poked around with rosemary sprigs, looking for that just right composition. After noticing my previous panel, I felt an attraction to that composition. This is a reprocessing and retracing of that image. This time I slowed down, intent on capturing details that I knew I'd later need.

This new iMac is such a pleasure! A bit of trouble with losing the network after sleep mode is now behind me.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Enticing Fog

There are all kinds of chores to be done, a rosemary sprig to develop, but there's simply not time! This new iMac is consuming cycles like crazy and then this luscious fog... How could I not get out for a few shots?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year Plans

Not really resolutions, but I do have some plans for this year:

Switch my systems and software to Apple. Today I picked up a 27" i3 iMac. What a cool machine! It's bigger than my television! :-) Of course, I'm brand new to Mac so there's a learning curve ahead for me.

Music. Part of the iMac move is to restart my computer-based recording studio. More on this soon. There may be a blog for these adventures.

Show art work. The nearest plan is something for the flower show in March.

Two weeks of classes with Koo Schadler. I've been in correspondence with her and I plan to register soon.

If all holds well, retirement in the fall!

Oh, there are so many details in these simple sentences. More on all this as things develop. But for now, it's time to get back to my rosemary work.