When arranging items for a still life I choose things that appeal to me for their color and shape but also for sentimental or personal meaning. My newest work includes a piece of pottery I made, a figurine given to me by my grandmother and a cross stitch cloth made in the 1950s by my husband’s grandmother. In my last still life painting I chose a piece of pottery made by one of my oldest friends, a wooden carved bowl and a painting from Guatemala.
The still life genre can be traced back to Dutch painting from 17th century. As the middle class grew in Europe, artists began creating art for homes, rather than churches or institutions. The art from this “golden age of Dutch painting” continues to influence some realistic artists today who hold the high level of finish these artists created as a standard of excellence.
The still life affords the artist control over composition, lighting, color and meaning or symbolism. Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cezanne painted the still life so he could study the objects over time, rejecting the idea that only transient light effects that the Impressionists focused on were important. Picasso and Braque used the still life to explore how three dimensional space could be translated into two dimensions differently by emphasising shifting angles and overlapping forms, without reference to local color or specific light effects.
I use the still life motif for its flexibility and challenge. What color, composition and form problems can I solve? What can these objects say to each other or to me?
The French term plein air means out of doors and refers to the practice of painting entire finished pictures out of doors. It’s most associated with Claude Monet and other artists in the 1870s who became known as the Impressionists.
I started doing work outside during covid and have been organizing an outdoor painting group for the past six months. We meet at various parks and locations in the Atlanta metro area. Most of the work I’ve done has been in watercolor. I recently purchased an easel to use for outdoor work. I entered a plein air competition in October. For this event I worked in both acrylic and watercolor. Working plein air appeals to me because it is the most direct connection with nature and light. There are challenges with weather, insects, hauling equipment and general fatigue after working outside for hours.
I used my i-pad between 2011 and 2013 to make drawings. This device is now out of date but I’m saving the portrait and figure drawings. I made drawings at live model sessions and some from watching tv news and debates. Some of the faces are recognizable.
The students in my acrylic painting class are doing some really good work. I’m throwing a lot at these students, including color theory, palette knife painting, abstraction and composition. It has been a pleasure working with these motivated and fun adults at the Spruill Center for the Arts (Dunwoody area of metro Atlanta). Here are some of the pieces.
I’ve been inspired by these trees since I first saw them in Savannah, Georgia. Their graceful but strong branches, often dipping down to the ground and covered with ferns, moss and Spanish moss, formed a complex pattern against the sky and created dense and dappled shade. I sketched them in the many scenic Savannah squares when I attended summer SCAD educator weeks. When I accepted the mural commission at Tyler Technologies I realized the horizontal nature of this tree would make the ideal subject for the 16 foot by 6 foot wall.
After making this decision I discovered that the southern live oak is also the state tree of Georgia. This oak is called “live” because it is an evergreen. Its range is from southern Virginia to Texas along the gulf coastal areas. The wood is very heavy and strong and many birds and other wildlife are supported by its acorns and dense shade.
These trees can live over 500 years! The Seven Sisters Oak in Louisiana is designated as the oldest registered living oak and is estimated to be between 500 and 1000 years old.
I added vertical elements to suggest the lacy quality of “Spanish Moss.” This draping plant is actually a flowering plant in the bromeliad family, not a moss. Contrary to what you might think, this plant does not harm the tree because it is not taking any nutrients from the tree but only from the air and water.
For the opening reception on July 15 I will be adding a sound element to the event. The field recording from Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia, gives you an idea of the sounds you might hear when standing near these majestic trees.
After working on the mural for a few days I decided to change the brown/gold color to a deeper and cooler blue/black. This created more contrast with the light green background. It came closer to the image of the tree I was looking for. I added some cool blue highlights. At home I altered my sketch digitally using the darker color and added shapes for birds. Adding the birds will provide some additional focal points for the very horizontal format. I’m choosing birds that would be found in the environment either as year round inhabitants or migratory birds.
This has been an enjoyable project because I have a good bit of freedom to create what I want and the working conditions are excellent.
I accepted a commission to create a 16′ x 6′ mural on a wall of a newly designed technology company in Gwinnett County. I needed to create a very horizontal design. The company’s designer suggested a tree and possibly hands. I was given freedom to create the design. I decided to use the southern live oak as my subject. I found out after I chose this tree that the southern live oak is Georgia’s state tree. It grows in coastal areas. I’ve been captivated by the spreading branches that sometimes touch the ground, the delicacy of the Spanish moss hanging down and the bright green of the moss often growing on the solid branches. These trees live 100 to even over 500 years old. They support many other plants and animals in their branches.
After transferring my drawing to the wall using a projector, I blocked in the branches using dark brown and leaving the wall color for the tops of the branches. I used a lime green to further delineate the negative space and then added a pinkish ground area. All of this was completed day one.
The Art in the Garden event turned out really great. The night before a big storm came along and brought lots of rain and wind but also much cooler temperatures. On Saturday we set up in Todd’s amazing garden using easels, trellises, tables and places on his fence. The artwork was nestled among the hostas, flowering bushes and flowers. At 1 pm the neighbors and guests began arriving. Everyone commented on the beauty of the garden, how the art complemented the setting and the comfortable temperatures. I got to spend time with four talented artists – Janet Saxon, Hanna Marx, Betsy Ayers and Shanon Schneider. It was a very neighborly and festive time.
In my recent work updating this website I’ve been thinking about who and what has inspired me to create artwork. Number one inspiration must be my mother. I’ve collaged a few clips from newspapers about her, along with snips of some of her artwork. The 1973 article from the Cleveland Press described her as a dynamo. This is a person that everyone knew in town. She painted anti war collages. She decided to make her own hula hoops and have a contest for children. She became a newspaper columnist. She photographed socialites and celebrities. She encouraged and believed in me .
I am excited to be teaching once again at the Spruill Arts Center in Dunwoody. I’ll be teaching a watercolor class this summer starting in July. This is for beginners as well as those with more experience. Hope you can join me! Feel free to share this with others. Course information for all of the classes can be found at www.spruillarts.org.