A small commission, with just weeks away...

Given how long it has been since I've posted anything new here at all, I am almost embarrassed to write another "yes I'm still here" post. But here goes! The baby is now less than a month away from her due date and I am finally feeling as if I have gotten our household in some kind of order to prepare for her arrival. Unfortunately, now that I'm getting a little respite from the baby books, the shower, the classes, and prepping the nursery, I am, in this final trimester, also feeling my least energetic and creative. In truth, I don't think I was prepared for just how exhausted I'd feel throughout the pregnancy. But now that I'm getting really big, I can't really seem to do any one thing for very long before I start to feel quite uncomfortable. So needless to say, painting has pretty much taken a back seat during most of my pregnancy, and it's hard to say when that will change to any great extent after the baby comes. However, I do have one new little piece to share. It's a small watercolor/pen and ink painting  (8x10" on 11x14" paper) that a client commissioned to commemorate her daughter's upcoming wedding:

  "Flavor of Fagiolari" Watercolor and Pen & Ink on Paper, 11x14" (SOLD) ©Jennifer Young

"Flavor of Fagiolari" Watercolor and Pen & Ink on Paper, 11x14" (SOLD) ©Jennifer Young

The scene is of a B&B in the Chianti region, not far from where I myself have traveled a number of times. It's a special place to the betrothed because they met in Italy and stayed at Fagiolari during their travels through Tuscany together.

When I paint from photos, I prefer to work from my own references. I just have a much better feeling for the place if I, myself, have traveled and painted there, and my photos serve as a trigger to call forth those experiences. I also take several different viewpoints of a given scene, plus a number of details, so that I can have as much information as possible when I get to work. So it's always with a bit of reservation when I consider working from a client's photo, which is normally more of a one-off tourist snapshot.

But this commission was actually quite a joy for me. Not only was it great to be doing something in the painting realm again, but the photos provided were excellent. Having also traveled the area fairly extensively myself helped a good deal as well.  Plus I was given much leeway as to how I wanted to interpret them (the photos) and what I wanted to include, rather than being tied to making an exact, literal interpretation(a.k.a. an illustration) of a scene.

What was most important to the client was that I capture the "flavor" of the place (hence the painting's title). Luckily, the client was delighted with the finished piece, and I had a good time getting my hands back in some art-making to boot. I tend to feel somewhat more intimidated by watercolors (as opposed to oils) but given its manageable size and the properties of the medium, I was able to stop and start more easily than I can with oils. It's not without reason to think that maybe I can even attempt a few more before "D-day" (or make that B-day) but we'll see. The one thing I can say about my life this past year is that it is anything but predictable!

Sunset on the Sound

I did bring my watercolors with me on our recent anniversary trip to Cape Hatteras, but I really didn't do much in the way of painting, save for this quick and light-hearted attempt below (done when we were sitting on the beach).  It just wasn't that kind of trip.

In fact, I even forgot to bring my camera, which is a real rarity for me! In a way it was a shame, because the B& B where we stayed had a fantastic vantage point on the sound, and provided us with some of the most beautiful sunsets we'd seen in a while. In another way, taking a real vacation to just "be", without feeling the need to work, was quite nice and very relaxing (though, believe me, there were times when the views were so compelling that the pull was strong!)

Our room had a view, so we'd sit on our balcony each evening and watch the sun set. I never tire of doing this. You can watch the setting sun from the same spot each evening and yet each time the experience is unique. It's the best show in town, and the sky seems to delight itself in its endless variations.

In the end, it's just as well that I left the camera at home, because the large majority of my amateur snapshots fail to capture the depth of color and the subtler transitions from sky to water. If not painting on the spot, the next best thing is to just sit and observe and to try and commit what I see to memory as best I can. So that's what I did. Once we got home, I painted this little watercolor from memory:

  "Sunset on the Sound" Watercolor, 7x10" (SOLD) ©Jennifer Young

"Sunset on the Sound" Watercolor, 7x10" (SOLD) ©Jennifer Young

Garden painting, St. Cirq La Popie- WIP

For the last week I've been pretty much bowled over by the flu, so I haven't found my way back to blogging before now. Bronchitis still has its hold, so I'm confining my work to the studio for the time being and holding off on plein air painting until I don't tire quite so easily. Meanwhile, I took a quick snap of the start of my latest piece from French series on the Lot Valley:

landscape painting wip france by Jennifer Young

I did a small watercolor study of this scene a while back during my studio construction, which made my compositional decisions a little easier with the oil. This is just the initial block in of a much larger piece (24x30"--about 3 hrs. work.) Today I'm working on adding more color and more finesse (though not too much or I'll lose the freshness.) More pics to follow.

Small figure studies

I haven't written in a while about my return back to the exploration of the figure, but it has been going relatively well. The weekly class I've taken with Robert Liberace has been wonderful, but I must say that the 1.5 + hour commute (each way) has been a little bit of a challenge, and unfortunately I had to miss a class or two in the semester because my car broke down. (That's one of the drawbacks of taking an out of town class--you can't exactly catch a ride if your transportation source goes south!) So while I've felt a little bit disjointed with my schedule glitch, what I've also discovered is that my time in class flies by very quickly, and that my execution with drawing the figure from life is still relatively slow.

figure study ink gesture

Rob did some amazing demonstrations during the course of each class, and I often felt torn about whether I should watch the demos for the duration or work on my own drawings. I tried to acheive a balance of the two as best I could, but since my time with Rob was rather limited (and I can hang out with myself most any time), watching Rob's demos often won out. As a result I've ended up with rather a lot of "beginnings," and nothing from this class really has the feeling of a finished work.

watercolor portrait study

But that is the nature of  learning, I think. And whenever  I teach my own workshops I always try to emphasize to students that in a learning environment, the goal of finishing or making a "framable product" should be subordinate to learning and experiementation.

I took a decent amount of figure drawing in college, so I don't consider myself to be a novice. But I'll say without equivocation that this class was definitely experimental for me. In fact, since it's been such a long time since I've done much if any life drawing, in hindsight I might have been slightly cavalier by signing up for this class. Rob has a lot of devoted followers and it became clear to me early on that many of his students (talented in their own right and some also teachers themselves) were quite familiar both with Rob's teachings and with life drawing in general.

I probably would have done well to have first gained a level of comfort by taking an entire semester of a more basic class in just one or two drawing mediums-- charcoal and chalk, for instance-- to really develop my drawing.  The class was called something like "exploring the figure," which is a hint that it was the next stage beyond just fundamentals. And while all along the way we learned about correct proportion and developing mass and form, there was a little more emphasis in this class on exploring different mediums from drawing to painting, which added a whole new level of learning to an already complicated subject.

figurative painting portrait study watercolor

But neither my car breakdowns nor my cavalier course selection was enough to detract from the class as a whole, thanks wholly to the instructor. I found Rob to be an incredibly energetic, enthusiastic, and helpful instructor. Most of all I found him to be so very inspirational. Beyond his masterful technical acuity, he displays an incredibly beautiful sensitivity and true artistry in his work. So in many ways,  I am glad to have taken this particular class; because not only did it enable me to see the range he is able to acheive in his own work, but I also could see hints and clues about what is possible for myself.

grisaille portrait study Jennifer Young

*Note, scattered throughout this post are a few of my studies from the class. All are pretty small--ranging from 4x6" to 8x10". The small gestural studies (short poses from 3 to 7 minutes) were done in sepia ink. The two subsequent pieces were watercolor, and the final piece was a grisaille on linen, done on the last day of class.

A painting between contractors- St. Cirq La Popie, France

Well, I've stopped fooling myself that I'm going to get away any time soon to work on larger oil paintings. Setting these kinds of impossible goals when we've scheduled back to back contractors for the new studio (painters, hvac, electrician/lighting) just sets me up for frustration. So the last time I stopped by my temporary painting space, I grabbed my watercolors and a few drawing supplies for a little painting at the "kitchen table studio". It's been some time since I've done any watercolor work, so it took me a while to get a feel for it.  But it sure is nice to focus on something other than lighting fixtures, and the great thing about these kinds of pieces is that I can always later develop these compositions into larger oil paintings down the road:

France landscape painting St. Cirq La Popie

"Private Garden, St. Cirq Lapopie" 9x12", Watercolor and Conte Crayon

sold

I had the thrill of driving to the beautiful village of St. Cirq Lapopie (St. Cirq is pronounced something like "San Seer") at the tail end of my trip earlier this year to the Lot and Dordogne in southwestern France. It was a thrill because it was a breathtakingly beautiful location; but as well because my rental car felt not that much bigger (or safer) than a tin can, and  the winding road that leads to the village hugs the cliffside that drops a few hundred feet to the Lot River below. This is a view of the village from the overlook near the parking lot:

St. Cirq Lapopie 

Even though the hike down the near-shoulderless road was also treacherous, I'd have to say it was all well worth the risk. It's a touristed village,  but with good reason. Wonderfully preserved 13th to 16th century Quercy buildings with pitched rooves line narrow streets overflowing with flowers.  Perched high above the ambling Lot river, its "picture-book prettiness" has earned it the well deserved designation of one of France's most beautiful villages. To be sure, I'll be posting more paintings of this village (watercolors and eventually oils) in the days ahead.