L’il Lemon, 6″ x 6″ Oil on panel. A very special, but not-so-good painting.
We all have them. Bad days, bad weekends. Lemons. This past weekend was definitely subpar, a lemon. There was no one thing that happened; nothing disastrous. Just a typical weekend, some cleaning and bill paying Saturday morning that took too long. My whole house seemed to need spring cleaning. Before I knew it, I was putting away the winter coats, arranging lemons and rummaging around for a spring candle. Next, the bills needed to be paid. That’s enough to put anyone in a down mood. Then, time for errands. I stopped by my Dad’s to pick up a new plein air system he custom designed for me. Quite deluxe (will post pics soon!). Of course, I wanted to test it out, but I wasted 2 hours aimlessly driving looking for just the right spot. Snow banks and trespassing laws prohibited me from most of the places I would have painted. I finally got set up, ready to paint a nice barn and thought: boring- it’s just a nice barn. Nothing interesting, old or vintage about it. I went back to a place I had painted before but within 5 minutes, my hands start to go numb. What now? It was already 4:00 and the day felt like a waste. I was furious at myself for sleeping late, taking too long to clean, paying bills on a Saturday and wasting precious weekend time driving. I needed to do something to snap me out of my self-imposed “Looserville” syndrome.
46 brush strokes (plus or minus one!)
Lemons. I had just read about an artist who challenged her students to complete a painting in a limited number of brushstrokes, like 40. The object of the exercise is to be aware of color mixing, brush strokes and brush selection, not to mention accurately reading color and value. Lemons! I had all those lemons in my clean kitchen! Within minutes, my bitter mood turned sweet. I used a limited palette: White, Cad Yellow Pale, Cad Yellow Deep, Alizarin Crimson, Cad Red, Ultramarine Blue. I had a piece of canvas taped under the painting. Each time I made a brush stroke, I made a tally mark. I used a size 8 Rosemary Ivory flat brush. I started with the darkest value, then mid tones, and then highlights. I added the background last. The little lemon taught me a few things: One, that I need to slow down (in life and in painting) and have more gratitude. I need to isolate shapes to really see accurate colors. I used my view catcher for this. Big brushes are awesome. Powerful, bold and confident. I typically would have used a small brush fussing with all the details. Brush strokes matter. I learned to not squander them, rather consider each stroke, it’s direction and length. I reached my 40 stokes and ended up using about 6 more to complete the background. Is it a great painting? No, but it’s an important painting; a reminder that when life gives you lemons, instead of making lemonade, paint them instead!
Remember having a favorite everything as a kid? Favorite TV show, favorite cereal, favorite game, and the quintessential favorite color. As an adult, it may seem silly to have a favorite color. But as an artist, I must admit, I have a favorite color. I know, I am breaking all the rules. But there is one color I sneak into practically every painting. I don’t even do it to create color harmony. I just use it because I have a great association with it, and it makes me happy. My secret color? Winsor Newton’s Cobalt Turquoise Light. I even like the word turquoise. To me, the color dances! It’s light, peppy, optimistic, cheerful yet doesn’t demand too much attention when used sparingly.
Winsor Newton Cobalt Turquoise Light
CTL next to Cerulean
I have not seen this color on any recommended color palette by any artist. It is a color you can mix using variations of cerulean, but there is something about seeing the tube and the tiny squirt on my palette that makes me happy! It’s ready to get mixed, ready to do its job. My palette feels naked without it!
Detail of Glamour: CTL on rim of class
Glamour, 8″ x 8″ Oil
Detail of Get In, CTL on rim
Get In! 8″ x 8″ Oil
Detail of Who’s Thirsty? CTL on lines faucet
Who’s Thirsty? 8″ x 8″ Oil
I remember as a kid, going to Lake George Village in the Adirondacks in New York State. My sister and I would go into souvenir shops and handle all the merchandise. We would smell the insides of the cedar boxes. We would pick out patches for our jeans and would buy a piece of turquoise jewelry. I never knew where it came from or how the gems were made, I just loved the color and besides, cool people had turquoise. Stevie Nicks wore turquoise. I have seen turquoise waters off the island of Puerto Rico, Culebra. I have swum in the turquoise waters off Key West & Miami. They are as pleasing to be in as a preheated bed.
While Cobalt Turquoise Light takes the spotlight, the real star is light! Our colors get all the fame and attention “oh, the colors!”, but the reason we love color is because of light. Light shines on color. Light gives us memories. Light gives us feelings, emotions. It gives us life and miraculous possibilities. Light gives us rich reds and bright blues. It reveals the crimson of a rich ripe strawberry or the cerulean blue of the sky on a dry summer’s day. Light is what makes the waters blue. Without light, colors would just be bumping into each other fumbling in the dark. Thank you, light, for giving me my favorite color. Okay, I must ask, what’s your favorite color?
Tub O’ Soda, 10″ x 10″ Oil on gessobord
Original page from Michne Camping Log, 1971
My father kept our camping log all the years we camped. This page has the story of the day I won the “floating mattress!”
It was July 16, 1971. The perfect summer day as I recall. My father was hosting the annual work picnic. I won a green raft that day for my athletic ability in the egg race! It was my biggest claim to fame as a 9 year old. I remember reaching into a tub of iced cold soda with what seemed like every variety ever invented. It was sheer heaven- all the FREE SODA I could drink! Pull the ring tab- wear it on your finger for a bit before carelessly dropping it somewhere in the grass. Take that long first sip…..ahhhhhhhhhh. Life was good.
Who’s Thirsty? 10″ x 10″ Oil on Gessobord
We didn’t have water bottles- there was no sippy box, pouch or fancy energy drink. If you were outside playing, and you were thirsty, you would simply turn on the spigot, bend down a bit, wait for about 10 seconds until the cold water reached the end of the hose, then take a long, long gulp swallowing, swallowing and swallowing. Of course, you would then offer the hose to the next sweaty, out of breath neighborhood friend. If you were on your game that day, you might remember to turn off the hose. Or, your father might step in huge puddle and yell out ” Who left the dam hose on?”
Cherry Kool-Aid, 10″ x 10″ Oil on Gessobord
Making Kool-Aid was hit-or-miss. First, you had to have packet. Chances are, we didn’t have enough sugar to fill the measuring cup. Next, to find the pitcher- (dump out whatever old drink was brewing in that!) After accidentally snorting the unsweetened powder when you opened it, get your spoon, add sugar, stir, then pray that you would have ice in the ice-cube maker! If all was right with the world, you would have the perfect sugary cup of cherry Kool-Aid. All in a summer’s days work!
Remember Saratoga Vichy Water? Well, they also made Saratoga Ginger Ale! Of course, everyone had the Vichy water. My mother had it for every “adult” party. Each time there was a spill, it was “Grab the Vichy water!!” Not gonna lie, we usually had Canada Dry Ginger Ale. I resurrected this bottle from the Round Lake Antique Fest and thought I’d put the little sister of Vichy in the spotlight. What is Vichy water, anyway?
Frozen Pink Lemonade
After ripping the plastic strip off the can, removing the aluminum disk from the end, I would hold that can for a few seconds then wait for the “scccuuuupppppp” sound as the plop of pink creamy ice fell into the pitcher. I remember being in such a hurry to make it that filling 3 whole cans of water seemed like an eternity. The sticky, gooey mess would be left on the counter, along with whatever utensil could find to make it. Then, after selecting a glass as impressive as this pink drink, I would find the perfect spot to enjoy it. The ritual involved with pink lemonade hasn’t changed much and while buying a carton may seem easier, there is something about the canned frozen pink lemonade that remains my prefered method of classic, summer-must enjoyment.
Coke and a Smile. 10″ x 10″ Oil on Gessobord
Detail: Coke and a Smile.
I feel for this generation that didn’t get to experience the Real Thing. The commercial- apple trees, honey bees and snow white turtle doves. Everyone knows things go better with Coke. Especially the mountains! Taking a freezing cold Coke out of a galvanized bucket of ice- there is nothing more refreshing on a hot summer’s day. It adds life! It’s a natural! This video clip says it all! Classic Coke Commercial- Thank you Don Draper!
As the “Summer as it was…” daily painting series comes to a close, I leave you with this…
If you only read one of my blog posts, read this. This was a summer I will cherish forever. I made tangible the fond memories of my childhood, and hopefully yours, too. The story doesn’t end here. I hope to publish or license the images via a book encompassing these paintings along with the American cultural phenomenon during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Plus, I want a cool t-shirt with the salt water taffy painting on it! You may be wondering if I have a favorite. No, I don’t. There are a few that as an artist, I struggled with technically. But I’ll let you guess which ones those are. Tomorrow, I start a new job at Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park, NY. I will be teaching art. I was an art student in the very wing I will be teaching in. It is where I attended school my entire childhood. I find it fitting that as “Summer as it was….” wraps up, it might as well be 1972 and tomorrow, I am going back to school. I hope you enjoyed these paintings. I hope they triggered a memory or a smile. I will be making available prints and am looking for a venue to show the entire collection. Thank you to all who “liked” or took the time to leave a comment. I also want to thank Peter Fiore who inspired me and challenged me to paint every day for 100 days. I painted for 70 days and, well, that’s works too! For now, it’s time to order more paint and start the next project!
Green to Red, 6″ x 6″ Oil on gesso board
It happens every year, but as soon as I see that first green leaf turn to red, I’m always a bit in shock. Already? Seems like summer has just started. As a kid, I don’t think I was terribly aware of summer ending by the changing foliage. I think the crickets chirping a bit slower and it getting dark earlier made more of an impression on me. And going back to school shopping. I remember sitting in the Colonie Center parking lot with my brothers and sister while my parents went shopping in Sears for Toughskins. I would stare at the Macy’s and Sears signs and try to picture how big those letters really were. With my two new outfits, and my red Tartan plaid bookbag, I was ready to start school…in Summer as it Was…