Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Mentors...Kelly Fearing and Gibbs Milliken

Did you ever feel like a square peg in a round hole? Most artists do growing up.

Attending college at the University of Texas was an eye opener for me! There, I found my niche.

Austin, Texas 1976....Eeyore's Birthday Party, Zilker Park and a diverse art department...what more could anyone want?

I was introduced to graphite powder, texture boards, gouache, silverpoint and so much more. I made collages from textures of wood, woven bamboo, even my artist smock was morphed into rock-like formations.

Kelly Fearing showed me a world of alien landscapes made of layers of texture. He had me create countless texture boards from onion bags, screen netting, the end of bamboo paintbrush and other items pressed into texture medium.

I learned old school....no cell phone, computer, pinterest or facebook for inspiration.  Paper was placed over the texture boards and rubbed with Pentel "japanese crayons" and graphite sticks.

Gibbs Milliken was my life drawing professor for two years. He influenced me with his simple paintings of weeds growing in cracks in the sidewalk and feathers hanging from a string.

This is acrylic and gold leaf on linen done by Kelly Fearing in 1968.  It is as relevant today as it was in 1968 because he understood the medium and how to manipulate it. I was educated to explore mediums and understand their properties, not to use a "kit"approach and then be frustrated when something goes wrong.

Gibbs Milliken carved an ink quill for me from a yucca plant, he had learned the technique from native americans and how the yucca stem is absorbent. I still have it and treasure it. He taught me to loosen up with my drawing and to never let a project become "work".

Kelly Fearing showed me there is art in everything and gave me his passion for color.
 Without these two men, I would not be who I am today. Who's mentoring you?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

All Tied up in Knots....!

I love the San Francisco airport...they often have mini exhibits to view while waiting to board a plane.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this exhibit on sailor knotting ! I had seen one of the finest examples of knotting  a few weeks prior to this trip and it had stayed on my mind.

While on ships, sailors got creative with their spare time and developed the art of macramé into an art form.

They would tie the knots over wine bottles, boxes and even the ship's wheel!

Although they had some great examples, none compared with the jug I had seen earlier.

It was in a lamp shop in Little Rock , Arkansas...Lamp Shades Etc.  Those teeny knots called to me from across the room.

Have you ever seen a more exquisite example of sailor knotting? Even the lid has a cap! I swooned! The price was a little out of my budget, but I am optimistic about finding another one in my future. Never underestimate a woman on a mission! I'll let you know if I find another treasure...!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Camera Obscura....

(Canaletto drawing)

Wikipedia defines camera obscura as-"is an optical device that projects an image of its surroundings on a screen" 

Imagine my surprise when, recently in San Francisco,  I found a working camera obscura! 
 Leonardo da Vinci describes the camera in his notebooks-"In 1490 Leonardo da Vinci gave two clear descriptions of the camera obscura in his notebooks. Many of the first camera obscuras were large rooms like that illustrated by the Dutch scientist Reinerus Gemma-Frisius in 1544 for use in observing a solar eclipse."

The camera was built as a tourist attraction by Floyd Jennings, a San Francisco businessman , on a cliff overlooking Seal Rocks . Life Magazine featured it in their March 1964 issue.

Going inside the darkened room, you are able to view the images of Seal Rocks and the surrounding area.

The building is located just behind the Cliff House on Ocean Beach and is a little worn for wear now.  There are no longer lines of people waiting to enter in this age of digital photography and cellphone cameras, but geeky art-minded people like me still wander in and are amazed with the simplicity and clarity of the images.

The fact that these images are in "real time" with motion of the waves and birds flying, made this a popular tourist attraction in the 1960's.

Being the geek I am , I just purchased a camera lucida, based on the early principle of the camera obscura.  This will be used for transferring images for decorative painting. If your curiosity is peaked, but don't want to spend major bucks....

Yes! There is an app for that!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Strapwork.... with Adrian Card

 (Adrian Card photo)
I just finished a wonderful class with Adrian Card held at the studio of Lynne Rutter in San Francisco. The panel was a strapwork design done in traditional colors with a fabulously rich black background.

(Lynne Rutter photo)
We started our day with a "training wheels" panel , practicing brushstrokes, highlights and shading. Adrian also demonstrated how to paint luminescent jewels.

(Lynne Rutter photo)
We traced our design and began to layer in base color, shadows and highlights, mimicking shiny brass for our strapwork framing. Everything was done in oil paint and with only one round brush...as it would have been in the 16th century.

You can see from this detail of Adrian Card's panel, the design is rich with ornamentation,-draped swags, jewels, urns, birds and other  elements adorn the strapwork framing.

You may remember this panel that Adrian did a few years earlier that I included in an earlier post on strapwork.

These are my panels as class ended...I will finish them soon. Thanks go to Adrian Card for his teaching style and Lynne Rutter for the comfortable and creative environment of her studio!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Zuber's "Decor Chinois"...

I recently was asked to repair a room of Zuber wallpaper that had water damage and pet damage...

"Decor Chinois" was the pattern! First made in 1832, Decor Chinois has 57 colors in the design and came in three colorways-cream, pink and the popular green.

I remember my first visit to the Zuber Paris showroom...I had set up an appointment and buzzed the door to be let in...

There were all of the designs on panels to flip through. Each design was hand carved from pear wood and made into wood blocks. They are kept in a controlled climate and allowed to rest for several years between printing again.

The previous owners had a dog that scratched a large area back to the liner.

I repainted the design and moved on to the water damage...

Three walls had moderate to more extensive water damage from upstairs flooding...

Several panels had multiple water stains running top to bottom through the designs. I painstakingly touched up each flower, bird and leaf in the effected area and then blended the background...ahem, did I mention Zuber is know for their gradation in color on their backgrounds? They start with one tone at the top and become lighter in the middle and then another shade at the bottom.

Decor Chinois is no longer in production.  The pear wood blocks begin to crack and warp after a century of use and must be retired. One of the perks of being a decorative artist is a job like this one....to come full circle from viewing the papers as a young artist and then restoring them to their original beauty, to be appreciated by another generation of art lovers!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Made in Venice....

If you have a sharp eye, you can still find these ornate door pulls in Italy. The pictures I am sharing are ones I have photographed from Venice.

There are still foundries in Venice that produce ornate decorative hardware from century old designs.

I love the blend of utilitarian and decorative function of these pulls.

While visiting Carlo Marchiori in Calistoga, I purchased two door pulls, made in Venice, that Carlo was selling!

I wanted to mount them in my hallway. I bought thin plexiglass, mirrored it and antiqued it and added trim.

I then added the prized door pulls, one on each opposing door....

Now, I have to decide what to do with the space around the mirror...one thing at a time!

So, keep a sharp eye the next time you are in Venice and maybe you will see a door pull...made in Venice!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Graham Arader Galleries and the works of Adrien de Montigny...

I love strap work....and Montigny was one of the early decorative artists that did it so well.

Graham Arader has an impressive collection of Montigny watercolors in his two NYC galleries. I was in NYC recently and had contacted Mr. Arader prior to the visit to set up a time to see some of the work.

The colors are still brilliant done in the late 1500's in watercolor on vellum. Graham has a detailed article on them on his blog.

Montigny used decorative borders of floral motifs and strap woven strap work to frame the villages and pastoral scenes.

From his very detailed work, we can learn what trees grew in the area and even identify the buildings.

"Assembled over four hundred years ago, the collection of watercolor albums commissioned by Duke Charles de Croy constitutes one of the most remarkable historical records of the towns and villages of the Low Countries of the 16th and 17th centuries, and a foremost artistic expression of the French Late-Renaissance style"(source)

"Many show examples of highly distinctive strapwork decoration, a hallmark of the late European Mannerism. Strapwork was widely popular throughout the late 16th and early 17th centuries, a type of ornament generally employed for borders that was composed of bands with the appearance of having been cut from leather or sheet metal, then twisted and rolled into fantastic shapes.  The origins of strapwork are to be found in Italian art at the beginning of the 16th century, and interlacing bandwork or strapwork appeared on bookbindings in Italy and Spain from the mid-15th century into the 16th. Early examples of bandwork used to articulate fields of ornament occur in Raphael's decoration of the Vatican Loggia(1518-19). Closer to de Montigny's center of activity, Rosso Fiorentino introduced a developed and highly individual form of strapwork in the stucco frieze of the Gallerie of Francois I at Fountainbleau."(source)

Work by Adrian Card
If you have a similar love of strap work, contemporary decorative artist Adrian Card will be teaching a three day class on it in San Francisco at Lynne Rutter's studio in September. I will be there and hope to meet other like minded decorative enthusiasts! Details on Adrian's class are here.
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