Abstract Figures

Last week I took a 3-day workshop on abstracting figures. I’ve been wanting to really loosen up in my work and have this idea of just slapping on paint, stepping back, and voila, I’ve created a masterpiece! While I know that’s a pipedream, I’d like to work towards it anyway. So, this workshop was exactly what I needed to push me in the right direction.

Our instructor, Leslie Masters, is a wonderful older lady whose been around forever and styles herself in the most quirky bright-colored clothing; all shades of pinks and oranges! She tough but sweet at the same time and you can tell she really knows her stuff!

The first day we talked about Picasso and Matisse and started with contoured line drawings of faces from magazines. I chose a beautiful Asian model and copied her face onto tracing paper starting with simple line, more detailed line, straight lines, and curved lines. From there, we chose one to paint, using bold blocky strokes focusing on the value and shapes. Below are my classmates works from the first day:

(Side note: most everyone in my class worked in acrylic or watercolor. Acrylic lends itself to these exercises very well – working in oil was much more difficult.)

The following day we began with looking at Pop Art especially Peter Max. I was not familiar with his work and didn’t really care for his style; flat, colorful with black outlines – very cartoony, 70’s psychedelic; think Beatles Yellow Submarine.

Our task for the morning was to work with a partner and transfer an outline of our profile onto a canvas, then create a bubbly landscape in the background that followed the curvy lines from our portrait. I must have missed the memo, because I used straight lines to create my background. I didn’t get too far with the painting and I’ll probably gesso over this one and use the canvas for something else. However, I loved the way some of my classmates turned out. Here is my partially finished design/painting.

In the afternoon we created figure collages based on images from magazines focusing on the large shapes. Next, we painted the figures in an environment – channeling the abstract artist Richard Diebenkorn.

The third and final day was really fun!! We were channeling de Kooning and our task was to create a large, loose, messy, abstract figure painting using house paints and large brushes. I chose to paint from a favorite picture of my young son when he was about 4 years old. Below is the original picture and my abstract interpretation: my pièce de résistance!

In the afternoon, we each took turns showcasing our works from the three days and gave a brief synopsis of what we learned, what we liked / didn’t. It was a great foray into abstraction; I learned several ways to approach the subject without feeling overwhelmed, great techniques to get started, and about several abstract artists. Now, I can take what I learned and hopefully approach my paintings a bit looser. We’ll see, stay tuned!

Art for Dummies

Originally posted on Justsomething.com

The following is a funny guide that’ll help you link famous painters and their style and paintings together in the future. Even though it was conceived as a joke you will realize how this list captures the essence of each artist, resulting in the end actually useful.

Caravaggio.
If everyone looks like doey-eyed girls, then it’s Caravaggio.
Reubens
If everyone has giant asses, then it’s Reubens.
Dali
If it’s something you saw on your acid trip last night, it’s Dali.
Picasso
If everybody has some sort of body malfunction, then it’s Picasso.
Bruegel
If the paintings have tons of little people in them but otherwise seem normal, it’s Bruegel.
Bosch
If the paintings have lots of little people in them but also have a ton of crazy bullshit, it’s Bosch.
Titan
If the images have a dark background and everyone has tortured expressions on their faces, it’s Titian.
van Eyck
If everyone – including the women – looks like Putin, then it’s van Eyck.
Rembrandt
If everyone looks like hobos illuminated only by a dim streetlamp, it’s Rembrandt.
Michalangelo
If everyone is beautiful, naked, and stacked, it’s Michelangelo.
Boucher
If the painting could easily have a few chubby Cupids or sheep added (or already has them), it’s Boucher.
Degas
If you see a ballerina, it’s Degas.
El Greco
If everything is highly contrasted and sharp, sort of bluish, and everyone has gaunt bearded faces, it’s El Greco.
Monet
Dappled light but no figures, it’s Monet.
Frida
If every painting is the face of a uni-browed woman, it’s Frida.
Renior
Dappled light and happy party-time people, it’s Renoir.
Manet
Dappled light and unhappy party-time people, then it’s Manet.
Mondrian
It it looks like an Excel sheet with colored squares, it’s Mondrian.

La Maison Rose

Upon returning from Paris, I decided my first painting from the trip would be the quaint pink house turned bistro at 2 Rue de l’Abreuvoir, Montmartre. I began the painting process in Mid-April and just finished up a couple of weeks ago, taking a hiatus to create the 5th grade promotion video for my sons’ class.

Because of the hilly nature of the Montmartre landscape, the perspective on this one was extremely difficult. From where I took the photograph, the bistro and street corner were slightly below me receding into the distance at a slight angle. Not one single point was straight!

While researching La Maison Rose, I learned that Picasso himself had frequented the place and that it was home of Germaine Pichot, a well known painting model and notorious femme fatale. Picasso and Carlos Casagemas, Picasso’s best friend, met Germaine when they first came to Paris in 1900. Carlos fell madly in love with Germaine, but the feelings were not mutual.

In 1901, in his grief and drunkenness, Carlos attempted to shoot Germaine. He missed his target and instead turned the gun on himself. Shocked and saddened by his friend’s death, Picasso fell into a depression. It was this tragic incident that provoked his Blue Period. Germaine was depicted in Picasso’s 1905 painting At the Lapin Agile shown below.

La Maison Rose, Montmartre, Parris, France.
La Maison Rose, Montmartre, Parris, France.

The Blind Man’s Meal] is one of Picasso’s most moving pictures from his Blue Period (autumn 1901–mid-1904). Most prevalent among his subjects were the old, the destitute, the blind, the homeless, and the otherwise underprivileged outcasts of society. The painting is not merely a portrait of a blind man; it is also Picasso’s commentary on human suffering in general. Additionally, the work elicits affinities to Picasso’s own situation at the time, when, impoverished and depressed, he closely identified with the unfortunates of society. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The destitute outcasts featured in Picasso’s Blue Period gave way, in 1905, to circus performers and harlequins in more colorful settings. The Lapin Agile was originally conceived to decorate a bar in Montmartre, the interior of which is depicted here. Standing at the counter is Picasso himself, dressed as the melancholy and gaunt Harlequin in a vivid diamond-patterned shirt and three-cornered hat. Behind him, in profile with heavy makeup and pouty lips, leans Germaine Pichot, wearing a gaudy orange dress, bead choker, boa, and feathered hat. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Montmartre, Paris

It seems a million years ago that we were in Paris; so much has happened in the past three months. But I feel the need to finish writing about Paris, if only to relive my wonderful memories.

My most favorite day of the vacation had to be the day I visited Montmartre. In another life, Montmartre was a bohemian hilltop haven, home to some of the world’s greatest artists, writers, and poets. The winding cobblestone streets, small boutique-style shops, infamous dance halls, and Place du Tertre, where local artisans paint en plein air, sounded like heaven to me and I couldn’t wait to spend the day exploring!

Abesses Entrance

After a 30 minute metro ride from Grenelle, I finally landed at Abbesses, which I later learned is the deepest station in the Paris Metro system at 118 feet below ground! The ground-level entrance is beautiful! It is one of the last remaining Art Nouveau glass-covered designs created by French architect Hector Guimard.

I Love You Wall

Upon exiting the station, one of the very first sights you come to is “Le mur des je t’aime” (I love you: the wall). Here the words are written  311 times in 250 different languages and dialects. People come from all over the world to see the wall and declare their love for one another.

Montmartre Street

As I navigated the cobblestone streets, I wondered if Picasso or Van Gogh had walked these exact streets before me. I stopped into a few little quaint shops. I really wanted to buy a piece of local art, but the prices were outrageous!

Next, I found a funky little resale shop and knew I stumbled onto something. How cool would it be to own something once worn by a Parisian? I tried on a few tops, but nothing fit quite right. Then I spotted an adorable little rain coat and voila, perfection! The best part? It was only 5 Euros! I had found my little memento for the day.

View from Stairs

I continued my journey climbing a series of steps-and-landings, steps-and-landings, steps-and-landings for what seemed like a mile to reach the “Place on the hill” (Place du Tertre). The square was covered by mostly portrait & caricature artists with their easels and surrounded on all sides by over-priced cafes and shops. Only a handful of people were actually painting.

Getting My Caricature Done

Most were just trying to make a euro by accosting tourists. I held out for quite, walking around the square admiring some of the art, until one gentleman with a kind face asked if he could do my portrait.

I was sure this wouldn’t end well for my pocketbook, but after climbing all those steps, I wanted to sit down and take a load off.  We struck up a conversation about art and family among other topics, and I actually enjoyed my time with him. When all was said and drawn, I came away with an adorable caricature, a twenty minute respite, a nice conversation, and only a minor dent in my wallet. It was well worth it!

Caricature in Montmatre

Just past the square is the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. The Roman Catholic church was designed in a Romano-Byzantine style inspired by sister churches of Italy and was completed in 1914. The exterior was carved from a type of travertine stone whose calcite turns white when it mixes with rainwater. It was a beautiful sight.

The entire city of Paris is visible from the front court of the Basilica. The dome sits over 650 feet above the River Seine and you can see for 30 miles. It is the highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower.

Museum of Montmartre

After wandering outside the Basilica for a while, I continued on.  I headed West on Rue Cortot and stumbled upon the Musee de Montmartre.

The building was built in the seventeenth century as The Bel Aire House and is considered the oldest in Montmartre. During it’s peak, it served as a meeting place, studio space and home for many well-known artists, such as Renoir and Émile Bernard. The museum houses many great works by Toulouse-Lautrec, Auguste Renoir, Suzanne Valadon, and her son Maurice Utrillo. I wanted to view the collections, but unfortunately, their credit card machine was not working and they would not take my American dollars. I was out of luck, so I kept on exploring…

La Maison Rose

Just around the corner at 2 Rue de l’Abreuvoir was the most quaint bistro, La Maison Rose. It’s bright pink exterior and green shutters stand out against the surrounding buildings and landscape. I was able to capture this wonderful image of a young couple dancing in front of the cafe. It is my favorite moment from the day.

Clos Montmartre
Montmartre Vineyard (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Just down the street I passed by Clos Montmartre – the last active vineyard in Paris. It covers over 1,800 square yards and contains 1,900 vines of 28 different grape varieties.

After sightseeing for a few hours, I was famished and it was getting chilly outside; time to take a break and warm up. I wandered into a small cafe called Chez Ginet and settled in for a hot cup of cappuccino and a goat cheese/eggplant salad. It was absolutely delicious and so pretty. I had to take pictures!


It was starting to get dark now, but there was one more check on my “To Do” list before calling it a day. Relying on my trusty iPhone GPS, I followed the main streets to my final destination. Along the way I passed over the Montmartre Cemetery where countless well-known artists, playwrights, authors, and dancers are buried.

Montmartre Cemetery

Making a left onto Boulevard de Clichy, I continued on. It was dark now, perfect for viewing the infamous dancehall. As I made my way, I passed by numerous “adult shops”. I clutched my purse a little tighter.  Not once did I ever feel afraid or threatened, but it was dark and judging by the shops, it may not have been the best place to be a lone woman. Finally, there she was, the Moulin Rouge, lit up in all her splendor. What a sight! You could almost hear the music from inside.

Moulin Rouge

Judging by the crowd of tourists taking pictures, I was not alone in my quest. I snapped several photos and then disappeared underground to catch the Metro. I settled in for the ride back, ruminating about all the wondrous sights, sounds, tastes, and memories of the day. Montmartre. My favorite day in Paris!

Photographic Portraits of Famous Artist’s Paint Palettes

via Colossal | An art, design, and visual culture blog... by Matthias Schaller

Since 2007 photographer Matthias Schaller has photographed raw, abstract paintings. The paintings however are not found on canvas, but rather smeared onto the tools used to craft each work of art—the palettes. His series, Das Meisterstück (The Masterpiece), claims these behind-the-scene objects as portraits of the artist, while also giving a direct insight into the detailed techniques performed by each painter.

Schaller was first inspired to begin his photographic collection during a visit to Cy Twombly’s late studio. During the visit he stumbled upon the artist’s palette, which he discovered to be an accurate reflection of the artist’s paintings. Encouraged to further discover the similarities between palette and painting, Schaller has gone on to photograph over two hundred of these historic portraits. His search has led him to collect palettes from all across Europe and the United States, finding the objects in major museums and private foundations and in the custody of artists’ relatives and collectors. The palettes he’s photographed so far in the series belong to seventy painters from both the 19th and 20th century, and include such artists as Monet, van Gogh, Matisse, and Picasso. To accurately analyze the details from paint hue to brushstroke, Schaller presents the images in large format, each work existing at approximately 190 x 150 cm.

Through June 8, the Giorgio Cini Foundation will present Schaller’s Das Meisterstück alongside the Venice Biennale, an exhibition that will focus on 20 of Schaller’s palette photographs. (via Hyperallergic)

Paris in (Almost) Springtime

At the end of March my husband had to travel to Paris for work and guess who was able to tag along for a vacation? Before he had even finished telling me the plans, I emphatically said, “YES!” and had mentally packed my bags and made arrangements for the boys and the animals. Let’s just say he had me at, “Paris.”

Hotel Ares Eiffel (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

We left on a Friday redeye out of Detroit and landed in Paris about 8 a.m. Saturday, albeit tired, so ecstatic to be in “The City of Lovers”, “The City of Light“.

We stayed at Hotel Ares Eiffel a quaint boutique style hotel in the Grenelle neighborhood of the 15th Arrondissement. We stashed our luggage and quickly located the neighborhood Starbucks for some much needed caffeine and European croissant. Once our room was available we unpacked whatever would fit into the tiny hanging closet and crashed for a few hours.

In the evening we hopped on the Metro and headed out for dinner across town to the historic Brasserie Balzar located near the Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter of the 5th Arrondissement.

Brasserie Balzar
Bordeaux & L’Onion Soup

The brasserie opened it’s doors in 1890 and has been frequented by philosophers, artists, and intellectuals ever since. The brasserie, according to Sandra Gustafson’s Great Eats Paris, “..remains a favorite of Left-Bank intellectuals and would-be bohemian’s of all types.” French existentialist philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus were regulars at the Balzar. Actually, it is said that they had their last great argument here in the summer of 1952 which led to the demise of their friendship.

There was no such great drama in the air during our dinner; to the contrary, we met a nice family from California seated next to us and the L’onion soup and Bordeaux was delicious!


On Sunday we did a whirlwind tour of Paris. By the end of the day I was thoroughly exhausted and my legs were sore. I kept thinking about and thanking my surgeons. Without my new ankles and back, none of this would have been possible! I was feeling truly blessed and grateful.

After croissants and cappuccino’s, we caught the Metro and made our way along the Seine to the iconic Eiffel Tower in the 7th Arrondissement. It was much larger than I’d imagined and more beautiful in person.

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower

We followed the Parc du Champs de Mars East and wandered the nearby streets. I was on a mission to see the infamous building at 29 Avenue Rapp designed by French Art Nouveau architect Jules Lavirotte. On the way we spotted another one of his beautiful designs at 3 Square Rapp.

Next we headed over to view the Arc de Triomphe and shop on the world famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement. Around 9 p.m. we dragged ourselves into Pizza Pino for dinner and wine overlooking the streetlights of the boulevard.

Arc du Triomphe
Arc du Triomphe
Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Musee d'Orsay
Musee d’Orsay

Tuesday was cold and rainy – perfect for touring the Musée d’Orsay. After waiting in the cue for over an hour in the drizzling rain, it was a relief just to get inside and sit for a few minutes. The building itself is a beautiful piece of art. Set on the banks of the Seine, it houses art collections from 1848 to 1914.

Musee d'Orsay Clocktower Cafe
Musee d’Orsay Clocktower Cafe

The museum, which opened its door s in December of 1986, was installed in the former Orsay railway station built for the World Exposition in 1900.

The museum is home to some of the world’s most famous sculptures. The entire ground floor was sprinkled with giant marble monoliths from the past two centuries. Since I didn’t have too long, I started with the Impressionists’ paintings. To get there, you pass through the back of the museum cafe which is gorgeous! At the end of the cafe is an enormous clock window overlooking the Seine.

After hours of walking around the museum, I jumped on the Metro towards ‘home’, grabbed dinner at a local brasserie, drew up a steaming hot Hermes bubble bath back at the hotel, and called it a day – and what a great one it was!

Stay tuned for my adventures in Montmartre, Saint-Germain du Pres, and Louvre-Tuileries. Au Revoir for now.