An Evening at Chez Mamou

Tags

, ,

After a business trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, I spent a couple of days in Santa Fe. Never having been there, I reveled in the “let’s see what I find” approach to exploring the town. Chez Mamou was the first restaurant I came across. It was removed from the crowds and had a distinctly European flair — a perfect place for dinner and a sketch. I picked an outdoor table overlooking the street scene.

What follows is the progression through drink, food, and paint . . .

Laying out the sketch while enjoying a German helles lager

Setting aside the sketch to enjoy my breaded chicken, roasted veggies, and mashed potatoes (it was stated much more eloquently on the French menu — something like “garlic-crusted poulet seared in a crumb sauce served with butter infused patate puree and accompanied by a vegetable roast medley”)

Deciding to go all the way with dessert and coffee

Returning to my sketch with a sated belly and happy heart

Adding paint as dusk settles in

Trying to remember the daylight colors

And voila! finished painting

My table at the end of the night

From Chez Mamou, I walked up the street into the heart of Santa Fe, enjoying the slight coolness of the evening (after a 100+ degree day) and the festive atmosphere. Santa Fe lived up to my expectations, and while I enjoyed discovering its treasures, it’s clearly been discovered by many, many, many others. 🙂

Advertisements

Plein Air at Pepperrell Cove

Tags

, , , ,

Sonia and I signed up to host a Plein Air painting afternoon at our Cliff House through the Kittery Art Association, located just down the street from us in Kittery Point, Maine. We also invited artists from our favorite gallery in Portsmouth, Ceres Street Gallery. The weather forecast was iffy all week, with projected rain. But it ended up being a spectacular afternoon/evening with a constantly-changing sky and beautiful weather.

I perched myself overlooking the beach beneath our house where there’s a weathered chunk from the hull and keel of a long-past ship wreck:

Rocks are particularly hard for me, for some reason. I like the way these rocks turned out, but I think the darker shade should be lower on the rocks, rather than on top, where shadows tend to be. I like the way the sand and beach turned out, and I also like the many layers of red/orange on the hull of the wreck.

Other than enjoying doing my own painting, Sonia and I loved hosting this event. We met some local artists from the Kittery Art Association and bonded over vino and storytelling late into the evening with our friends from Ceres Street Gallery. We’ll definitely be doing this again next year!

(Click on any picture to be taken to the photo gallery.)

Cafe V

Tags

, , , , ,

Portsmouth has at least 6 coffee shops (by my count) in its quaint downtown area. I’ve tried them all. The busiest is Breaking New Ground (BNG for short), which is located right in Market Square, the center of Portsmouth. I used to go there often to read or draw, but it became a little too popular with the tourists and bikers for my taste.

I stumbled across another coffee shop a block away called Cafe Vonsolln. It’s named by its former German owner after a street in Munich, his home town. Cafe V is quiet, rarely crowded, and by my taste  has the best coffee in town. I go there to write, to paint, and to just be out in town.

The painting of the girl on the wall is from a series of paintings around town that the city commissioned several years ago. They’re all rather odd, and some are downright creepy—including this one. Best I can tell, this is a painting of a very serious girl with a jump rope surrounded by bees. Right.

Anyway, Sonia and I enjoyed a Sunday afternoon there, and I took out my sketchbook to catch the street scene. I tried to keep the sketch free and loose as I took it all in. Adding the shadows at the end is always a little anxiety-provoking for me. Once you lay down the shadow, you can’t take it back. But it really does add depth and texture to the painting.

I’m working on my characters/people — trying to keep them simple and right-proportioned. I’ve found that the more I work on a character, the more cartoon-ish it becomes. I’ve read one key is to taper the body down to pointed feet. At any rate, there are a few people in this sketch, and by and large I’m pleased with them. 🙂

Overall, a great way to spend an afternoon!

St. John’s in Portsmouth

Tags

, , , , ,

Sitting outside at my favorite coffee shop in Portsmouth (Cafe Vonsolln), I can see the steeple of St. John’s Episcopal church peeking out from the trees. St. John’s is a beautiful church with a rich history. The original building was erected in 1732 and was called Queen’s Chapel. It was destroyed in a fire that ravaged the town of Portsmouth in 1806. The current building was built the year after the fire, in 1807.

2017-06-18 12.14.03

I painted the scene on a warm day this past summer while enjoying coffee with Sonia. As I usually do, I first created a sketch of the scene with pencil and then with fine point sharpie pen.

2017-06-18 12.13.58

Then I laid down washes for the sky and the trees in the foreground. For the trees in the background, I painted the sky wash right over what would later become the leafy canopies.

2017-06-18 12.22.54

I focused on getting the light right—on the tree trunks, the shadowed sides of the building, and in the trees. I’m always amazed at how much depth emerges when I add shade areas. I also did something new with the tree canopy. I painted a second “layer” of canopy by adding very light green paint. This created the illusion of even more depth. I really like how it turned out. I didn’t erase the pencil lines from the original drawing, and I like how they add more texture to the painting.

I used my Pentel water brush to add color while on site. It’s so satisfying to walk away from with a complete painting, rather than only a sketch, and the water brush makes this a much more frequent outcome. Overall I really like how this turned out. It’s bright, cheery, and loose.


2017-08-28 11.50.02

 

Shameless Book Promotion

Tags

, , , , , ,

This is a post about painting. Kind of. It’s more a post about the voices that appear in my head when I paint. Kind of. It’s more a post about fear. Kind of. It’s really a post about a book that I just published that I’d like to promote.

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s the story. A little over a year ago my girlfriend, Sonia and I moved in together. And that kicked up ALL KINDS OF FEAR based on old thought patterns and old relationships. I’ve spent the past year writing about the process of moving through my fears, and I’m happy to report that IT WORKED! I didn’t scamper back to my man-cave bachelor pad when my fears reared their heads. Rather, I discovered a process for “flipping” my fear into something greater, something bigger, something inspired. And that’s what I wrote about.

My sister, Katie designed the cover. I love it!

flipside_final_freedom

And then I found a website that converts your cover into all kinds of cool promotional images:

Ok, so not all of them are cool. In fact some of them are kinda laughable. But I can’t help but be just a little giddy to see my book displayed in so many ways.

So here’s where I write about painting. I’ve noticed that when I paint there’s a whole chorus of voices that bounce around in my mindspace:

  • Who do you think you are? You’re a fraud! F-R-A-U-D.
  • Wow, this is pretty awesome. You’re going to make big bucks as a professional artist, my friend. Haha! Just kidding!
  • This sucks!! Why are you doing this to yourself!!
  • Not bad. It only took you TWO MONTHS to finish.
  • Keep your day job. Definitely keep your day job.

You get the point. I have the seed of an idea to develop a painting workshop where participants use their painting to surface these pesky little voices, and then we deal with them in the workshop. And my book, The Flipside of Fear, provides the three-step process for doing this. Cool, eh?

Enough said. Now here’s the shameless promotion: Download my book!! It’s being offered free until Thursday, 2/22. And share it with your friends who hear voices in their heads and aren’t ashamed to admit it.

Thank you very much. 🙂

P.s. You can find the book on Amazon (https://amzn.com/B079VRD6FK) or you can click on any of the links shamelessly peppered throughout this post.

The Wentworth

Tags

, , , ,

The Wentworth Hotel in Newcastle, New Hampshire is a beautiful old-world 1870s hotel that was restored by Marriott in 2000 after being closed and abandoned for 20 years. The mosaic below contains 2 renditions each from the Wentworth of yester-year, the Wentworth in disrepair, and the Wentworth now.

Sonia and I spent a couple nights there to celebrate her birthday. It was a cool summer in New England, so we were pleased to see that the forecast predicted a short warm streak that coincided with our stay.

I love poolside vacations when the only choices are:

  1. Read
  2. Nap
  3. Eat
  4. Swim
  5. Paint
  6. Just Be

I cycled through all of these, and especially enjoyed the poolside menu…

2017-08-21 15.20.14

(If you’ve never tried mayo with your fries, you should). Looking out from our perch in the adults-only section of the pool, I saw an intriguing view:

2017-08-22 15.41.44

It’s not a particularly stunning view. What interested me was the the roof line right beyond and to the right of the open umbrella. I liked the shape, the shadows, the color, the perspective. I was also intrigued by the pine trees in the background. When I started sketching, the umbrellas in front of me were down, and I thought it would be a fun challenge to try to capture the folds of the fabric.

Here’s what emerged:

Of course, my eye immediately goes to all of the things that are “wrong” with it. But as a practice in celebrating what pleases me, I’ll list what I like. 🙂

  • I love the color of the umbrella, and I think I captured the folds and shadows of the fabric.
  • I like the foliage in the foreground. It’s complex without being too heavy or detailed.
  • I really like the pine trees. I used a technique from a workshop several years ago to draw the trees. I love pine trees in general, and seeing and painting them brings me back to the mountains.
  • I like the colors in the roof, including the shadows on the beams.
  • I like the clouds. I don’t usually sketch in cloud lines, but I kind of like how it turned out.
  • I added splatters, and I really like how they increase the texture and give the illusion of detail.

When I was done, I made a small little sketch in my sketchbook of what was happening to the left of the scene above: Pool Chaos. Flocks of kids were enjoying themselves just a little too much for my taste. 🙂

I loved our Wentworth vacation. What one thing are your eyes most drawn to in this painting? What pleases you?

 

Winnipesaukee #2

Tags

, , , ,

Later in the afternoon as we were enjoying our day trip to Lake Winnipesaukee, I found my gaze drifting to the town of Wolfeboro, just across the water from Brewster beach. Fun Fact: Wolfeboro boasts being the oldest summer resort in the U.S.

2017-08-14 17.37.27

Feeling a surge of inspiration, I took out my kit and started sketching. I did my best to keep the sketch loose and quick:

2017-08-14 17.37.45

I really like the composition—the big tree in the foreground on the right and the right-hand shoreline angling to the left, drawing the eye to the focal point of the painting, which is the town and the mountains in the background.

Earlier in the day when we ate lunch, the ducks got really aggressive. I had to threaten them with a foam noodle to get them to back off. Vicious duck on the prowl for vittles shown below:

IMG_20170814_141432

Now, as I sketched, the ducks settled down and took a nap.

IMG_20170814_182128

What emerged is this:

2017-08-28 11.47.37_2

I really like how the clouds and water turned out. I added some violet mixed with burnt umber to give the clouds shadows. And I chose to leave some white space in the water. It feels more spacious to me. That was hard for me to do, as the tendency is to want to fill all space with paint. I also added some splatters, trying not to go overboard with them (which is tempting when you start flipping the brush, let me just say).

This was a great way to end our day on Brewster beach. The afternoon sun, the napping ducks, Sonia and Alix soaking in the sun. Painting this scene grounded me in that precious moment and helped me to take in all that it had to offer. And that’s one of the main reasons I love to sketch and paint.

2017-08-14 18.18.09

Winnipesaukee #1

Tags

, ,

Lake Winnipesaukee (a beast to spell correctly) is about an hour from home and is a favorite New England vacation spot. Seeing that the water temps can get into the high 70s, it presents a significantly more attractive option for swimming than the beaches on the ocean, which in my experience average around 65 degrees in the summer. I can do 64 degrees “comfortably.” It was 60 degrees the last time I went in a couple days ago. Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.

Winnipesaukee’s Brewster Beach is located in the town of Wolfeboro, and it’s there that we spent an afternoon during my sister Alix’s recent visit. This scene inspired me (the picture was taken by Alix):

IMG_20170814_141459

I began by painting the sky. Until recently, when I painted sky, I would bring the sky paint down just to the horizon/tree line and no further. Remembering a few painting lessons from a while ago, I did something different this time. I brought the sky paint all the way down to the bottom of the painting, except where I wanted to reserve white space (like the seagull, the sails in the background, and the boat).

At first it felt wrong—like I was ruining the trees and mountains by first painting a light layer of blue over them. But then I reminded myself that the the green of trees and the violet of mountains both have blue in them. In fact, most colors I mix have some blue in them.

The advantages of bringing the sky paint down:

  • It makes the line between sky and horizon/trees much less choppy.
  • It allows for nifty little “sky holes” to appear in the tree. I used to paint the sky holes in after I painted the tree, and it created choppiness. These look much more natural. Leave an area of the tree unpainted, and there you have a sky hole.
  • It creates a base layer for the water that’s the same color as the sky, which is true for real water—it generally reflects the color of the sky.
  • It creates more unity in the painting.

I also did my splatter technique to add some texture and depth and abstraction to the painting. And I left my pencil lines in this painting. My practice has been mostly to erase the pencil lines after I add pen. This time around I thought why not leave them in? I like the extra texture and complexity it adds to the painting. More expressive, I think.

2017-08-28 11.50.46_2

When I first drafted this blog post, the boat was white, which was it’s actual color (shown in the painting and photo above). Looking at the painting in the process of writing this blog post, I thought it might be nice to add some more color, so I simply added some yellow to the boat. Yellow felt like the right color. I didn’t like that, so I made it into orange. Wasn’t crazy about that, so I did cerulean blue. Here are the orange and blue versions.

Which do you like best? White boat, orange boat, or blue boat?

Note: Alix (standing in the water) and the seagull weren’t really having a staring contest. But that’s what emerged in the painting. 🙂

Folly Cove

Tags

, , , ,

When does graffiti cease being graffiti and start being a piece of history? Do you notice the “AR ER” painted on the rocks in the center of the photo below?

IMG_2036

I consider it a piece of history—it’s over 100 years old, and it has a very special meaning for me and my family.

Here’s the story. Both my grandparents families on my father’s side immigrated from Finland around the turn of the century. The Seppala family (grandmother’s side) purchased a home on Folly Cove in Gloucester, MA, right on the Rockport line in the late 1800s. It became a dormitory of sorts for newly arrived Finnish immigrants. The Ronkas with their five boys—Ensio, Arne (my granddad), Laurie, George, and Toimi—lived right across the street on the Gloucester/Rockport town line. Summers were spent swimming in the Folly, fishing, and climbing rocks, and winters were spent sledding, ice skating, and hanging out in the Finnish sauna.

When Arne and Ensio were somewhere in their mid teens, they thought it would be a good idea to make their mark on Folly Cove by writing their initials on the rocks. They decided that the better swimmer would win the right to mark their initials larger than the other’s. So, they held a contest—they raced each other across the cove. Arne won. So, around 1915, they took a bucket of pitch and made their mark, with “AR” being larger than “ER.”

The initials fade every now and then, and someone (we don’t know who) always refreshes them. I’m sure the residents of Gloucester and Rockport blame some young vandals. And they’re right… except the vandals would be over 100 years old now.

A couple of years ago, on what was around the 100th year anniversary of the race (we don’t know exactly when it happened), my sister Alix and I visited Folly Cove, and yep, I took out my kit and sketched away.

2014-07-18 15.55.27

IMG_1608

It was fun imagining Arne and Ensio pushing off for their race from the very rocks I was sitting on. I felt a certain connection to my heritage and their youthful spirits. I imagined how much life has been lived since then—both by them and by me. And how they had hopes and dreams about how their lives would turn out, just as I do. They had no concept back then of the 21st century, and even less of a 40-something grandchild returning to this same spot. Arne and Ensio now rest together in a family plot at the Seaside Cemetery on the other side of the trees overlooking the Folly, a stone’s throw away. Coincidentally, Arne’s name is printed in larger letters than Ensio’s on their grave markers.

Search results for Folly Cove

Some day my parents will be buried there. And then me, if I choose that as my final resting place. Shown below is the Ronka family plot, and just down the “block” is the Seppala plot (my grandmother’s side of the family).

Search results for Folly Cove1

Of course, everyone living now will all pass away.  And 100 years from now—2117—perhaps another Ronka will be sitting on the rocks, contemplating the lives of those who came before, wondering who keeps refreshing the AR ER.

And that’s the circle of life—expansion, contraction, expansion, contraction. One of my favorite authors, Richard Rohr writes about this. He explains that as the form and structure (i.e. the body) contracts, the spirit continues to expand. He posits that most people, if they come to understand this natural cycle, usually don’t “get it” until they’re in their 40s or so—when enough life experience has built up to reveal their limitations and the inevitability of death. Some people—those who have experienced great suffering early in life—get it earlier. And some people never get it, desperately clinging to that which is passing away. The difference between those who grow old and become caricatures of their worst parts and those who grow old gracefully is the recognition that the spirit is what lives on forever and the decision to attend to and nurture it.

May we all be in that camp.

IMG_1609

Rockport

Tags

, ,

Rockport is located on the tip of Cape Ann in Massachusetts. It’s a very special place for my family. Both sides of my dad’s family immigrated to the US from Finland in the early 1900s and ended up settling in what was then a Finnish community on Cape Ann.

When I was growing up in southern California, my parents drove us across country (more than once) in a station wagon to visit my grandparents. Think of the Griswold family in National Lampoon’s “Vacation,” but add two more kids.

National Lampoon Vacation

Being the youngest of the four, I always ended up in the back, tucked into a little nest carved out between the suitcases, bags, and food cooler, constantly trying to rid myself of pesky little bits of granola bar and Triscuit stuck to my body. And no seat belts for any of us (although I do believe my parents always wore theirs…).

At any rate, I have many early childhood memories of Rockport. Just about every time my sister, Alix visits me, we make a pilgrimage to Rockport to see the familiar sites and visit the graves of our grandparents. She visited this past August, and Sonia, Alix, and I made the short trek from Maine to Cape Ann.

We ended up at a restaurant on the tip of Bearskin Neck, an idyllic pier with shops and restaurants and views of lobster boats and light houses.

2017-08-15 14.00.37

As we waited for our meal, I surveyed the view and started a mental sketch…

2017-08-15 14.25.10

…nearby rocks, lobster buoys, far shore, and boats puttering around to serve as models (none of which made it into this photo). Perfect. I had brought my painting kit with me—I have a man-purse dedicated for that purpose. I took it out and transferred my mental sketch to paper:

2017-08-15 14.25.05

I’ve been practicing boats, and I was pleased with how this little lobster boat turned out. I’ll probably do a blog post on this later, but for now, let me say that I learned the best way to get the curves of a boat to look authentic is to first draw a figure 8 on its side. You erase a couple of lines, and voila, you have the hull of a boat. Hacking the boat sketch, so to speak.

Alix and Sonia enjoyed the sun and chatted as I worked.

As you can see, I used my nifty water brush (still very much in love with it!). What emerged is this:

2017-08-28 11.46.48

The painting looks a little more dark and stormy than it actually was, but then that sometimes happens, doesn’t it? I used a finishing technique on this painting that I learned in a workshop a while back, but hadn’t ever applied to my sketchbooking: The Splatter. Getting my brush wet with blue paint, I flipped the brush a few times to get little splatters of paint. It was a harder to do with my water brush, but it worked. I like how the splatters create texture and depth without being distracting. Somehow it seems to add a little more abstraction and expression to the painting.

I was also mindful of being loose throughout the painting. I didn’t get too hung up on the the lines or on blending the paint perfectly. This is my current intention–to paint with more expression and let go of realism.

And that, my friends, was painting Rockport. I’ll leave you with a collage of other photos from our day trip.

Camera Uploads