March 20, 2016
Being a colorist at heart, I’ve always been curious in seeing raw pigments and learning about where the colors come from, be it minerals or plants, or those that are created in a lab. My watercolors are infused with color. In my workshops I show my students ways to mix and layer colors to create richer, glowing colors, rather than using color right out of the tubes. I know there are plenty of painters who use specific palettes of color, limited to a small assortment of colors to create a certain tone to their paintings. I’m a color hog, the more the merrier. I never use any browns or black, and rarely grey. I mix them or layer them using all sorts of colors to get wonderful rich colors in my paintings.
And I am curious about where pigments come from. Typically they come from plants or minerals, and sometimes animals. Imagine grinding up a lovely piece of lapis lazuli to get that specific blue in your painting! Blues are purples were most expensive, so its no surprise why they are associated with royalty. With the Industrial Revolution, color and pigments could be developed in labs, and more especially after the Scientific Revolution in the 18th C.
I just found this article on My Modern Met about a lab at Harvard that has a collection of over 2,500 pigments from around the world, and you can go see them. Its the Forbes Pigment Collection at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, part of the Harvard Art Museum. They have the pigments there to use in art conservation work, to be able to match colors of old paintings that are being maintained and preserved.
photo from My Modern Met, colors from the Forbes Pigment Collection
Seeing this article made me wistful for an art supply store I went to when I was studying printmaking in Florence way too many years ago. Its called Zecchi Colori, on via della Studio (evocative name, no?). Head a couple of blocks toward the Arno from the Santa Maria del Fiori, the Cathedral that dominates Florence’s skyline, Zecchi is on the right side of the street. The first time I went in there I thought I’d died and gone to heaven because around the perimeter of the store on the top shelf of the supplies were huge glass jars of pigments, bright, intense, glorious. I never did get a photo of them, seems ridiculous since I was so taken with them that I just never took a photo. I did by a crock, though! But I think I need to get into that lab at Harvard…
February 10, 2015
I just read the transcript of Bob Dylan’s speech last week at MusiCares, when he was honored as their Person of the Year. It’s part of the annual Grammys events. I wish I could have watched him, but it wasn’t broadcast on television. However one reporter, Randall Roberts, thought to transcribe it, and the LA Times published it. Its a hell of a good read.
“Fuchsias” ©Jill Rosoff 2011, 6″ x 17.5″
I think it’s important to remember that creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is almost as if its a redistribution of wealth, that everything that we take in, visually, aurally, emotionally, spiritually, through taste, through feel, through smell, all of it can come back out of us in the art we make, if its painting, cooking, making music, writing, or any other creative endeavor, all of it reflects what we have learned so far. My artwork is influenced by so many things, by what I learned growing up, what my parents taught me, what I saw in museums, what I tasted. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve usually got a cup of coffee with me while I’m making art. I’m influenced by a great latte. Yup, I said that.
Dylan talks about the music he listens to, how he hears the songs and then writes something that reflect them. Read especially the part about the “Come all ye” songs, and what he wrote after that. You’ll have a V-8 slap-your-forehead moment. I look at Van Gogh, and Thiebaud, and Klimt and Diebenkorn, and so many more, and then I indulge in them as I paint my paintings. Going to museums to see the actual work of these artist heroes of mine is like plugging me in, I get all excited and fascinated and wish I could paint right then and there. Thank goodness for my iPhone, I can now take notes on it. But I still often take a notebook into a show with me to jot down things. Musically I try to channel Gabby Pahinui as I struggle to get my fingers, which are ingrained in American folk music rhythms and patterns, into playing Hawaiian slack key guitar. Its my new, great struggle.
Read the transcript here, even if you don’t subscribe to the LA Times online, you can read up to 10 articles a month there for free. I’ve downloaded it so I can go reread it now and then. So can you.
And if you live in or near Orange County, CA, come take one of my watercolor workshops!
January 1, 2015
Recently in my Saturday watercolor workshops, I told my students that if they ever wanted to go to a local museum to see a show, or to an art supply store, that I could easily be persuaded to join them. One of my watercolor workshops students took me up on it, emailed me and made a date to go to a small, local, private museum, the Irvine Art Museum. We went last Tuesday afternoon.
This small museum is “Dedicated to the preservation and display of California art of the Impressionist Period (1890-1930)”. The show they have up now is of cover art from Westways Magazine, the monthly magazine of AAA. Up until 1981, Westways’ covers were all original artwork of landscapes, commissioned expressly for the magazine. These works of art for the magazine covers are as wonderful as they are varied.
Many of the artists that were engaged to do the works are known California artists, including many of the California Plein Air watercolorists: including Phil Dyke, Maynard Dixon, Maurice Logan and Rex Brandt, along with other plain air masters and illustrators. For me its always just plain fun not only seeing the actual works, but also studying each piece, working out how each artist composed their painting. And when I’m with students, talking about how the paintings were made, what the artists did to create their artwork.
For me, seeing original art is a ready-made lesson, where I get to study not only the images, and the techniques and visions of each artist. My real excitement is seeing if I can figure out how the artist painted the image, particularly with watercolors and gouaches simply because its my chosen medium. In general its fascinating to work out because in watercolors, you have to build a painting specifically due to the transparency of the paint. The more I can glean from how each artist paints, the more it feeds my own work. When I go home and paint, usually using the imagery I know, I try applying the techniques and colors I’ve just seen, and see if I can incorporate their colors, the economy of their brush strokes, and how they use dry brush over wet on wet. I sat in front of this Phil Dyke piece of Mt. San Jacinto, marveling at the broad under-painting of the shape of the mountain, and then those very few, specific brush strokes that essentially show the mountain extrusion from the ground. Wow.
Want to see some of these treasures? Just google “westways cover art“. Here’s a brief bio for Phil Dyke, too. And if you can, go see the paintings in person. There’s another one of the Grand Canyon that’s simply remarkable! Thanks for calling, Lori!
Happy New Year!
September 1, 2014
An email arrived earlier this summer, someone asking about one of my paintings of plumeria. These are always fun emails to get, of course. This person was from Australia, making the contact even more exciting, to realize someone halfway around the world found my work and so enjoyed it they wanted to buy a piece. This person did end up buying that painting, and icing on the cake, they commissioned a second painting, based on a small one I posted on this blog a couple of years ago. The client wanted the commissioned piece to be larger than the original, so I got to adjust the composition, adding a more flowers to it, to make the larger format work well.
Here’s the finished commission.
I shipped both paintings together, and they arrived the other day, they have them in their “hot little hand. They are gorgeous – thank you so much!” Its so lovely knowing that something I loved making is going being enjoyed so thoroughly by someone else. Thank you back!
April 20, 2014
In my workshops, especially the newer students often use the word “dark” when talking about colors that are the opposite of pale. So I like to ask them, “What do you mean by dark?” This question usually gets a lot of stumped looks.
The word ‘dark’ means having little or no light, when you look it up. So it’s really not a very accurate word to use for a descriptor of deep or rich color values. So I’ve developed a list of contrasting words that I encourage my students to consider instead of the words light and dark. It opens them up a new way of thinking about how to describe colors, hopefully.
These comparisons produce a lot of different ideas about colors. Can you think of any more?
July 19, 2013
Homemade color wheel, approximately 3″ x 3″
I made this color “wheel” a few years ago during a one-on-one lesson with a new student from my Watercolor Workshops. We were going through the primaries and how the other colors were made from them. I found this little scrap of watercolor paper and painted the colors and numbered them. The primaries I numbered with “1”, the secondaries “2”, the tertiaries “3”. This was all new information to my student, an adult, who hadn’t learned it in grade school. She had gone through her whole life until then not knowing something that is an elemental building block of information, not only to making art, but I think to life.
This happens more frequently than I had ever thought. I have been teaching more frequently lately, in the local Jr. College’s community education, to teens at a local library in an after school program, and in my Every Other Saturday Watercolor Workshops. I’m amazed and sad that art is less and less a part of primary and secondary education. So soapbox time!
Kids need to be introduced to art early, so they have the experience of being artistic, creative, think inductively. And because its documented that art especially helps young brains think more creatively. There’s so much information available about this, about how art helps people to think in alternative pathways. Art was a regular part of my primary education, regularly in elementary school, and then I took ceramics for all but one semester of my four years of high school. I ended up a painter, but though I don’t work in clay any longer, there are things I know from those hours of potting that still inform my art.
So now I have my students paint their own color wheels using their own watercolors. Yes, you can buy very functional color wheels in an art store, but there’s nothing like the experience of creating a new color by mixing two others, or layering one transparent color over another one, to make a third color. And it lets them know what colors the paints in their palettes will be able to make. Oh the discoveries they’ll make!
I kept the color wheel I painted, its pinned to the wall next to where I paint. Not because I need it, but to remind me of the basics, and how fun it is to open others’ horizons about color.
May 1, 2013
I’m getting ready for shows and events in May and June here in Southern California.
Next weekend, May 11th and 12th, I’ll be showing my hand-painted silk scarves at Unique LA. This local artisan made show will be at the California Market Center in their Penthouse. The show is open from 11-6 both days, my location is T106, not far from the coffee bar (you’d think they’ve met me!).
Bring your Moms for Mother’s Day! AND, if you print out and bring this blog post you’ll receive 10% off the price of any scarf (retail sales only).
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The following weekend, on May 19th, I’ll be showing for my 5th time at the terrific Balboa Island Art Walk.
This is the Art Walk’s 19th year, and there are more artists than ever showing their work. I will once again be located between Coral and Apolena Streets, just look for my apple-green umbrellas. The show is strung all along Balboa Island’s bayfront walk, overlooking lovely Newport Harbor, from Marine Avenue past the Ferry Landing. The Art Walk lasts from 9 am to 5 pm.
I hope to see you at one or both events! Thanks!