Art Naturally Blog: Musings on my Life as an Artist
Enjoy this meandering journey with me. The highs, the lows, inspiration, ideas, techniques and general musings about the complicated creative life of an Artist.
Enjoy this meandering journey with me. The highs, the lows, inspiration, ideas, techniques and general musings about the complicated creative life of an Artist.
In my continuing series of Studio Glimpses, I love to respond to questions by my collectors. The process of how I created this painting is generally one of those most frequently asked.
In this video, I begin by showing you the photo of a flowering hibiscus from my own garden which was the inspiration for this artwork.
Here I write my thought process behind the stages visualized in the video.
In my initial stage I work out the composition of the final art work and deciding whether it will be a square or a rectangle.
To work out the details of lights and darks that will be in the final painting I like to start with a tonal drawing. Using an HB weight graphite pencil I use my customary swirling strokes to give form to the drawing. Not being partial to outlines I don’t emphasize them but soften the edges by merging them slightly with strokes.
In order to transfer the drawing to the canvas I used a mapped grid system. In this case, I put a transparent sheet of paper over the tonal drawing on which I’ve drawn a grid. After measuring the same grid on the canvas I was able to upsize the drawing onto the canvas. Using pastels I created an underdrawing of a neutral ochre color using the tonal drawing as my model, followed by a layer of neutral ochre oil paint which seals the surface of the gessoed canvas.
In the next stage, I applied thin coats of oil paints in layers recreating the original composition in the base colors allowing the underpainting to peak through. Many, many layers of thin glazes are applied to give dimension and form to the final painting.
Details are added during the later stages, I think of it as putting jewelry on after you get dressed to go to a party. You save the best for last.
Each day after if finish working on a painting in my studio I photograph it for reference and view the images on my computer to see the progress and decide if I want to make any changes along the way.
I prefer to work on thick gallery wrapped canvas and finish the work off with neutral floating frames. I aim for simplicity in form with exuberance and abundance in surface color. This painting has no visible brushstrokes which is also my preferred style of painting.
On November 15, 2018 I was proud to be inducted into the National Association of Woment Artists, NAWA. I had submitted my portfolio, resume/CV, bio & artist’s statement for jurying into this historical organization that was founded in 1889 with a mission to create a greater opportunity for professional women artists in a male-dominated art world. Sadly, this situation still exists to this day. We are still in need of a gathering of strong and resiliant women to promote and support each other and ourselves.
You can read more about the history of this organization on their website here: www.thenawa.org/nawa-history/
The induction ceremony was held at the Rubin Museum on 17th St. in Manhattan New York City. Attending artists spoke about their work with passion.
Later that same day the Opening Reception of the New Members Show was held at the gallery of the NAWA on 39th St in NYC. The rooms were crowded with artists and guests. The artists had the opportunity to explain the ideas and inspiration behind their work on display.
Selecting art to buy online can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be. In my Art Shop I’ve added a few features to help you take the guesswork out of what art and what size will work in your space and what will not. It’s called Live Preview AR (for Augmented Reality.)
Using your own mobile device you can select a print from any of my collections of landscapes, floral portraits, still lifes and designer prints and view it through your on-board camera projected onto your wall space. You can resize the image of the print until you find that perfect sweet spot that will work for you in your own particular setting.
You can easily select different prints to view. Will a landscape style work or perhaps a square print? Choose prints to view either by clicking directly on their image in the category library or just press the left or right arrow to view the next in line. All the available sizes for each print are quickly and easily seen by you in the pull down menu right at your fingertips.
To exit Augmented Reality is easy and brings you right to the ordering page. You have an array of options in which to choose. What surface do you want for your print? Canvas, fine art paper, aluminum or acrylic? Once you decide the size and treatment you might consider a frame or matting depending on your choice of materials.
Now that your selection is made just click to see your shopping cart and the rest is a breeze. The hardest part will be anticipating the arrival of your very own piece of Art, custom chosen by you for your own special place. Enjoy!
All of my paintings start with the garden, mine or other gardens. On a trip one spring day in May as I wandered around the peony displays at the New York Botanical Garden, with my phone I took snapshots of many of the unbelievable peonies in their collection in full bloom.
Later that year on a cold winter day in December, sifting through my stash of photos, a particular pink peony image jumped out at me and demanded my attention. I knew we could develop a relationship together. It often takes months to complete a painting so I really have to love my subjects in order to spend that much time with them. We need to love each other.
Once deciding on the size of the canvas I want to use I sketch, using vine charcoal, to give the general outline of the final layout onto canvas prepped with multiple layers of gesso. Then I block in the areas of color, working on my lights and darks. Then I paint using many layers of thin glazing in order to get the vibrancy of color I crave.
Oil paints need a few days of drying times between layers and some of my paintings have 15 to 30 layers of glazing. In order to continue painting every day, I usually work on multiple paintings at a time. Each one a different day. A different palette of colors. A different stage of completion. I like the continuous challenge of picking up where I left off. I keep extensive notes at the end of each day for each painting. A sort of diary of each work.
I paint quite slowly and quite neatly. I don’t like to feel sticky so I’m cleaning brushes and washing my hands constantly. Gloves don’t work for me since I don’t like the barrier they put between my brush and my hand. Rolls of paper towels help with the tidiness of my style of workflow. In fact & have two different brands for two different uses.
I listen to music while I paint. During the duration of this particular painting, I was listening to many CDs of van Morrison music. I don’t know why. I just was. Sometimes I’m in a classic rock groove for weeks on end and other times might be jazz, classical or even new wave relaxation. I don’t plan it. It just happens.
I usually paint with just brushes, fan brushes in fact, but the center of this painting demanded a palette knife. It’s not something I usually turn to but since the painting had a mind of its own I complied. Glad I did since the center of this painting is rich with texture while the petals are completely without texture but rich in nuance.
I named this painting Centering – Pink Peony. The reason is that it represents two different views for me. I can see with my eyes that it’s an interpretation of a pink peony but in my soul I found it centered me. Made me contemplate the meaning of this painting, this flower, this world it had lived in and now lives in again but in a different way. One ephemeral, one eternal.
I have always dreamed about having my Art displayed outside around my garden and outdoor living spaces. And now the technology has caught up with my dream. I have my original paintings printed under heat & pressure to create these very vibrant aluminum prints. They can have a glossy or matte finish to them and I haven’t any particular preference since I like them all.
The weather-resistant aluminum which I’ve selected for my Art is thick and durable enough to survive and flourish in my garden throughout the 4 seasons and has been doing so since 2014. Because I wanted to make sure that the quality was right and the color lasted I tested many fabricators before offering the metal prints to my collectors.
Sometimes I frame the pieces in simple aluminum frames but most often I just hang them outside, on the trees, on the fences and on the walls. What a delight to look out of my office and look at art instead of looking at my garage & thinking it needs powerwashing! Even better is looking out in a snow storm and seeing the brilliant color of summer flowers breaking through the white and gray backdrop.
When the birds decide to decorate the art, I just squirt the pieces with some window cleaner and using a paper towel I wipe them clean again. No problem.
The aluminum makes the colors pop whether they’re on a matte or glossy finish. Though these prints can be hung outdoors many of my collectors buy them for inside their homes. Either way, it’s a unique decor addition whether inside or out.
Currently I’m having a 30% off Inventory Reduction Sale since I’ve stopped doing most Art Festivals & my studio space is overflowing. I only have a few left in stock and it’s first come, first serve until they’re gone. You can check the Art Sale page for what is currently available in this sale but of course all my prints are available in my Art Shop where you can order them in various sizes on canvas, fine art paper, metal and acrylic.
A July summer event, featuring music, dance, poetry and over 30 artists displaying and selling their original work. Art show begins at 10am and festivities begin at 12pm. Free admission and a fun day for the entire family. Hours are 10am to 5pm.
Director: Lauren Paige For Additional information write to the Northport Arts Coalition.
Join us for another exciting event in the picturesque Village of Northport, NY. This multi-disciplinary annual event is held in the Village Park at the foot of main street surrounded by the lush tableau of water, boats, trees, playgrounds and the old time Village feel of another, calmer and genteel era.
For decades I have been creating art in circles surrounded by squared edges. When I first made this type of work it was in the mid-1970’s. The circle was most often represented by an apple inside a square or cube. At that time it represented to me the yin and yang, female and male complements to our lives and our characters. The apple was an Eve figure, soft, female, curious, playful and seductive. The boxes were the rules, the male, the limitations, the protection and the containment of her attributes.
I have recently returned to this theme but using flowers from my garden as the subjects rather than apples. It feels so calming to me when I create these voluptuous rounded floral paintings. This peony was the first in a series of exploring again the circle in a square imagery so I named it “Centering” because that is how I feel towards these works. I find my centering in two places, in my studio and in my garden. They completely complement each other, one provided by nature and one in interpreting that vision.
There is a difference between the imagery of then and now. These flowers, though they are encompassed in a square format canvas, they are not contained. They are bursting through the limitations of frame, of edges, of inhibition. They are positive and empowered by their form and by their explosive color. They are neither shy nor retiring. They declare themselves as having established their own space. They are declaring themselves as individuals.
The flowers I create in my studio with brush and canvas speak to me beyond their intricacy of form, color, ruffles and swirls. LIke everyone else they initially attract me with the way the color changes as the light graces their outer curves and when it delicately enters their inner recesses, their intimacy. The edges of petals dance like ballerina skirts bouncing in the breeze. Their edges are fluted, scalloped, curved and splayed defining their differences and embracing their similarities of purpose.
I love the architecture of flowers, not just how they grow on their stems, their height, their leaves and their unique outward appearance. I concentrate on the inner architecture of their center parts, the configurations of their pistils and stamens, their anthers laden with pollen. Quite frankly, these flowers are built to seduce their pollinators. The birds and the bees but also the billions of bugs who help by rolling in their pollen to feast and to share and to help create the next generation to grace the earth.
Flowers speak to me of our universe. Our purpose. Our endurance. Each flower is an individual with its own color, shape and form. It’s own choices of community, culture and companionship. It’s own needs for climate, food and water for sustenance. But we all share our need to survive, another season, another year, another generation.
Whether I am among the flowers in my garden or the flowers in my studio, I embrace our diversity and our commonalities. All these flowers in soil or on canvas speak beyond themselves, they’re ideas and thoughts beyond just the visual. They speak to the interior of our purpose and our minds. They are us.
Not until I studied botany and viewed flower structures under magnifying glasses and microscopes did I really appreciate their magnificence. As a life-long gardener I looked at and created landscapes, matching groups of plants to be seen from a distance, blending distant views of overall colors and shapes. Matching seasons and cultivation needs, heights and spreads contributing to the designs I created in gardens and on canvas in my landscape paintings.
But that aha moment of peering dramatically close to the parts of a flower opened a whole new world of vision and contemplation for me.
By painting my flowers overly large and entirely out of scale from the real world, I try to bring that same sense of awe to my viewers. Show them something of what I see. I try to create for them their own aha moment of joy and wonder to take on their journey.
Mary Ahern brought her award-winning style of floral and garden inspired art to the Bayard Cutting Arboretum from May 17 through June 17, 2018. Three galleries of her floral portraits were on display at the historic Manor House at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River NY. Mary Ahern, known for her brilliant floral and garden paintings was showing her latest large-scale flower portraits. As a passionate gardener who is inspired by the gardens she … Continue reading →
As I mentioned in a previous post, Professor Louis Finkelstein, the Art Department Chairman abruptly walked out on me at my senior thesis show when I mentioned that I was about to be a single mom declaring it to be impossible that I could also be an Artist. He previously had offered to sponsor me to the notable, Robert Pincus-Witten for a Whitney Museum Graduate Fellowship program but suddenly I was anathema. That event took … Continue reading →
Pincus-Witten, the art critic, curator, historian, author and individual who in 1971 coined the term, “Postminimalism” has died. It reminded me of a brush with greatness that never happened for me. Let me explain. During my college years in the 1970’s in the Queens College art department program in New York, I was expressing myself with the same underlying emotional & intellectual content in a variety of mediums. It was a time of the emergence … Continue reading →
Although my stretched store-bought cotton canvas is already prepared with gesso, I add 3 more layers with a light sanding in between each. This makes the canvas less absorbent in my opinion. Everyone has their own recipe and this is mine. I apply the gesso with a roller if the canvas is big or a large brush if it is smaller.
Once the gesso is dry, which is within the hour of the last coating, I use vine charcoal to outline my composition. Because the charcoal is rather dusty, I blow the excess off using either my breath or an aerosol can of dust remover depending on the size of the canvas.
Next, I then use a thin wash of burnt umber paint and a thinner medium to cover the rough charcoal drawing and begin the shading process. This also fixes the drawing to the canvas & prevents the charcoal from blending further. That layer will dry, depending on the medium you choose, in an hour or a day. I then begin another coat of underpainting using either a warm or cool brown or gray base color. This can either be considered an underpainting or if more detailed and finished it would be called a grisaille. Over an underpainting, I would paint using opaque pigments and over a grisaille, I would be using transparent pigments for glazing.
Once this is dry in 1-4 days depending on the mediums used, I then begin painting with color. This is the very classical beginning to an oil painting that I was taught by my professors during my college years in another place and another time. I’ve always been glad that I was able to receive a formal Art education and it has been the basis of all my work over the years.
Choosing bulb replacements for perfect lighting in my studio. Since I have fluorescent fixtures already installed in my painting studio and didn’t want to replace them it narrowed down the search for the type of bulbs i would be looking for. Learning about LED or halogen lighting options, which I might consider if I was designing an entirely new studio, was off my research list. The installed fixtures are 4’ and had a mixture of … Continue reading →