Monday, August 21, 2017

How did you get here

Sometimes you make a decision and see the impact immediately and sometimes it's gradual, you have to look back to see how it evolved. Like... how did that happen?!

Early in my oil painting days, I decided to keep trying new things - to learn more and expand experiences to further my art career. It wasn't about trying new media or techniques because I already knew that painting realism in oils was my thing. It was more about taking chances. Because it felt like saying "I wish I could do something like that" was just a cop out.

And I decided some experiences were actually possible and it was me that was holding me back. So I took workshops in interesting places - the south of France... a prison in Philadelphia - joined national arts organizations and looked for new opportunities.

Mainly, I started whistling in the dark when something came along that intrigued and made me anxious at the same time. So when an artist friend said, "you should apply to the residency at Weir Farm," I figured, why not?

Spending a month with only art as a focus sounded both idyllic and nerve-wracking. What if I run out of excuses and still can't create anything worthwhile?! But the most daunting obstacle was that residency artists are asked to have a public talk at the end of their stay. Power point presentation and talking about yourself. How uncomfortable is that, I ask you?!

artist residency at Weir Farm, artist talk at Wilton library after a month at Weir Farm

It was a challenge, but I actually found the process of gathering talking points to be interesting - and useful. When you try to explain what you do and why, you begin to understand it better yourself. Articulating it creates a clearer focus.

These slides from my presentation outline some of the aspects of composition and technique that go into my paintings. We tend to take for granted that people can see what goes into out art making, but there is more behind the scenes and honestly we don't always realize it ourselves!

essence of painting an interior, patterns of light and shadow

first steps in painting

Many experiences and challenges preceded my time at Weir Farm, including an interest in vintage objects and historic locations. That interest had led me to visit, and ultimately paint at, Seven Hearths, the home of artist George Lawrence Nelson. And the reverential experience of painting in the studio of this American Impressionist painter also influenced my decision to paint interiors of Julian Alden Weir's studio and home.

So...when I was told the National Historic Site wanted all of my Weir Farm interior paintings for their collection, I was more than thrilled. 

And when I'm asked, "how-the-heck did that happen?"... the story starts with deciding to say yes to new opportunities.

This Friday there is a new "Art at the Park Festival" at Weir Farm to celebrate the park service's anniversary and Julian's birthday. Art-lovers and art-makers are invited to participate and more information is available here.

Also, if you're interested in applying to Weir Farm's artist residency, go for it! Start now to get your project description and letters of recommendation in order because the deadline is October 10th. If you have questions about my experience there, please comment and I'll get back to you.

The fall is an important time for art shows and experiences. I hope you take a chance and try something new.

Thanks for following me on my art journey. Here's to taking chances!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Rembrandt and Capturing Carpets in Oil

Ah, I'm back in my studio (home-sweet-home) having returned from Amsterdam, Brussels and Bruges where we were immersed in the creative milieu of these medieval cities and literally walked in the footsteps of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Eyck.

First we dropped in on Rembrandt. It's impossible to explain what it feels like to stand in the home of a master artist. His studio is on the fourth floor, reached by an extremely narrow and steep, winding staircase which may be why there was no one else up there. That quiet peace added to the sanctity of the space. It actually took my breath away.

artist studio

This still life hangs above a glass case with Rembrandt's actual still life objects which were discovered in rubble beneath the house. Imagine seeing the actual objects with the painting!
still life objects

I have to admit I spent a good bit of time in Amsterdam searching for a version of an old Rembrandt-esque jug or stein. No affordable antique pottery was found, but I did get an old, pewter coffeepot with a wonderful patina - to be featured in a painting soon, I suspect.

After struggling to paint oriental carpets recently I appreciated seeing how textiles were painted by the Dutch masters. Some were very detailed and others had just a suggestion of pattern. An example is this section of Gerbrand van den Eeckhout's painting, The Wine Publisher's Guild. I'm sure the guild members are meant to be the focus... but look at that pattern. Van den Eeckhout was actually apprenticed to Rembrandt in the 1660s. I admire the detail here - fabric, barrel and copper - but then you look at Rembrandt...
segment of van den Eeckhout's Wine Publisher's Guild
... and this is poetry. Rembrandt's painting is a similar theme, called The Syndics of the Clothmaker's Guild. Ironically the job of these syndics is to judge the quality of cloth samples. Yet, the exotic fabric seems like the least important element here. It's painted very simply but still conveys the richness and texture typical of classic tapestry fabric. The vibrant color speaks volumes against the black suits and white collars.
painted tapestry
The Syndics of the Clothmaker's Guild by Rembrandt van Rijn
In this close up you can see how simply the pattern is rendered. Still, the contrast of bright color and muted shadow describes the richness of the fabric beautifully. It's more passive than van den Eeckhout's fabric but more compelling. And I know... the fabric is not supposed to be the important part of the painting, but at the moment, for me, it is.
Close up of above painting by Rembrandt
My quest to examine tapestry began with the struggle to paint oriental carpets at Weir Farm last month. The first one is Weir's living room and while I have said that being at the residency provided a "new perspective" unfortunately, my first version of this painting also had a "wrong perspective" because the right side of carpet was totally off. By inches. Fixing it meant repainting the entire rug since the angle of the edge also changed the angle of the pattern on the rug. That was not a happy realization. But it's much better now.
painting patterns, genre painting
Julian's Parlor at Weir Farm © 2017 Dorothy Lorenze
The carpet in the next painting is bit more developed which I think works because there is less of it. You may have noticed in my still lifes that I can obsess over detail (!) so it was hard to decide how much pattern to include - or more importantly, leave out. Even so, I really enjoyed rendering all the patterns on carpet and wallpaper in this painting. The bust on the table is actually Julian Alden Weir, hence the title "Weir, Waiting in the Foyer."
Multiple patterns in the carpet and wallpaper were the challenge for this painting which features the interior of the home of Julian Alden Weir at the National Historic Park in Wilton CT
Weir, Waiting in the Foyer © 2017 Dorothy Lorenze
So, after a month at Weir Farm and two weeks of traveling, the current "new perspective" is about getting back to a comfortable, productive routine in my own studio. Lots of ideas waiting to be realized. I'm anxious to get back to it although it does feel like another new start. So, wish me luck.

And one additional happy update. During the residency, I had displayed my painting East Meets West in the studio as inspiration since the Weir dining room includes lots of blue china that I hoped to paint. One rainy day a family admired the painting and, much to my surprise, contacted me later to purchase it. So I delivered East Meets West to a proper Scotsman visiting his family in CT. They were very gracious, offering tea and biscuits. And now the painting is going "home" to Scotland. Jolly good, as they say!
East Meets West © 2016 Dorothy Lorenze

Thanks for joining me on my artistic journey.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Last days of my Artist Residency

It's hard to believe my four weeks at Weir Farm are almost at an end! Still lots to do before I leave. I have seven paintings in various stages of completion. (I never quite know if it's finished, until it's signed and framed.)

As you already know, this is the home of Julian Alden Weir. He is one of "The Ten" a renowned group of 10 American painters who frequently worked and exhibited together. Many attended the École des Beaux-Arts in France, as Weir did, studying with Jean-Léon Gérôme and becoming friends with the likes of Jules Bastien-Lepage and John Singer Sargent. Not bad company!

Weir's rural home became a gathering place for artists to leave the city and paint en plein air. The artistic tradition continues through the efforts of the Weir Farm Art Center which coordinates the residency, choosing individual artists to hunker down in the cottage and studio. Their gift is uninterrupted time for artists working in a variety of genre or media.

(Well, it hasn't always been solitary for me as a few artists and friends have come by to see what's going on. And some got creative as well. I see more plein air outings in our future.)

Laura and Leslie confer and critique

I think I have had a pretty conscientious studio habit, but I hoped that being here with nothing but my own initiative and inspiration would help me learn a little more about my creative process - including recognizing obstacles. I'm still figuring it all out, but it has been a valuable, dedicated time, focused on my art process.

It's so peaceful here and one of the new habits that was easy to fall into is taking a walk each day. After wandering the natural beauty of the woods and walkways I step into the studio feeling more connected to my work. Being refreshed and relaxed makes creative effort flow more naturally. Nice!

Here is a foggy morning view from one of my walks. This is the Burlingham house, home of Cora Weir Burlingham. It's now the visitors center but still maintains charming, historic architectural details. What a way to start the day.

walk in the fog

All my completed - and nearly-completed - Weir Farm paintings will be on view this Monday during an end-of-residency Artist Talk at the Wilton Library. If you'd like to take a look, and a listen, come by at 6 pm. It will be a casual talk, until about 6:45 or 7. Or, if you have questions about the residency please comment below and I'll answer whatever I can. Anyone interested in applying should check out the website early. Although applications aren't due until October, letters of recommendation are required and those can take time to gather.

Meanwhile... here is the latest unfinished painting - the foyer of the Weir home. This one is all about patterns: wallpaper, carpets, bookcase. Why do I do this?! I always start out loving patterns... and then they make me crazy for awhile. Eventually it will be finished. Maybe by Monday's presentation. Hmmm, probably not.

Weir Farm, historic home
work in progress of interior of Weir home

Moving beyond this month's exercise in interiors, we will be spending time among Dutch artists and architecture. I predict a return to classic still life coming soon!

Thanks for coming along on m art journey! And if you are in the area, journey to Weir Farm this summer for your own enriching visit.