They say that anticipation is half the fun, and that's definitely true for travel. Chris and I have a trip to Paris coming up in the next few months, so I'm starting my preparation. After years of traveling, I have lots of favorites in terms of guidebooks, suitcases, and the many little travel items that make a trip more enjoyable.
First off, I have my favorite suitcase, a Travelpro Rollaboard, which is the correct size for European planes. That means my bag won't have to be checked because it's oversized. We always carry on our luggage because we don't want to risk losing it, and we love not having to wait at baggage claim. Bringing a small bag means I really have to pack light, but it's worth it! I also have a medium sized Travelpro tote that's twenty years old and still going strong.
The most important thing about preparation, of course, is planning what we'll do. For European travel we love the Rick Steves' guides for learning about all the important sights and the lesser-known gems that are off the beaten track. His books are well written, concise, and fun to read.
To make the guides even more portable we take Rick's advice and, before we leave, cut out the part of the book we'll be using and just bring those sections. Then we're not lugging around the whole book. Brilliant!
We also do a lot of online research to find out about museums, art exhibits, music, and other events that may be going on. We have a tradition of going to see an opera whenever possible on our travels. It makes for a really special, memorable evening.
I also plan locations where I want to take photos for my work. Of course many of my photos are spontaneous shots that I find along the way, but I do like to identify cafés, parks, and sites that might provide photo ops of people enjoying themselves in beautiful settings.
To organize all that information, I have my husband, Chris, who is a whiz at combining all the activities we've identified into a optimized hour-by-hour spreadsheet that I load onto Evernote (we really are such nerds). We try to schedule only two big things a day, morning and afternoon, then plan walks, window shopping, or cafe sitting to fill in the rest of the day.
I am a list maker, so of course I make lists for what I'm going to pack. I'm big on layering and having everything work with everything else so I have lots of options, and not much laundry. Two things I always bring are sun hats (I'm big on sun protection) and scarves (I hate to be cold).
Finding a packable good-looking hat has become something of a quest. These are my current favorites. The top left is by Wallaroo, and the one on the right is by Hatch. Both are crushable.
I have also started a tradition of buying a scarf from my favorite scarf store in Paris, Diwali on Rue St. Louis en l'Île, the ritzy main street in the center of the Parisian island. The shop is always a pleasure to visit with its hundreds of beautifully displayed brightly colored scarves and accessories, and the shopkeeper is always très gentille!
Finally I pack my collection of items that make traveling easier and more enjoyable. From top, clockwise,
So there you have it! All – well most – of my hard-earned travel secrets! But I'm always ready to learn more. How do you make travel easier and more fun?
On our last visit to Europe, Chris and I were entranced by the city of Dresden, Germany, situated on a bend in the Elbe River near the border to Czechoslovakia. For centuries the city was the Saxony capital and the royal residence of the Saxon king. The castles and palaces of these kings together with the city's exquisite and monumental churches make the historic city center a treasure of Rococo and Baroque architecture.
For me, the most interesting architecture in Dresden was the beautiful Zwinger Palace, which served as orangery, exhibition gallery, and festival arena for the Dresden court. The palace complex, partially situated at the location of the 12th century city wall, is a series of rococo, baroque, and neoclassical buildings connected by galleries that enclose a green-space. It is especially pleasant to view the gardens from the raised walkway that runs above the galleries for the circumference of the palace.
Like much of the city center of Dresden, this palace was reduced to rubble after the catastrophic carpet bombing of the city by American and British forces during WWII. The massive rebuilding of the palace was begun by the Soviet government in 1945 and completed in 1963.
I was fascinated by this porcelain tile mosaic on the outer wall of the Dresden Castle. Called the Procession of Princes , or Fürstenzug, this 335 ft long artwork was originally created as a painting in 1871 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Wettin Dynasty, who were Saxony's ruling family. The mural shows portraits of the 35 electors, dukes, and kings of the House of Wettin in a procession on horseback. Later, in 1904, the painting was replaced with porcelain tiles, making this the largest porcelain mosaic in the world.
Dresden has many beautiful churches. Two of the most famous are the Katholische Hofkirche (the Dresden Cathedral, on the left), and the Frauenkirche Dresden (the Lutheran Church of Our Lady, on the right). I was inspired by the scope, complexity, and thoughtfulness of the rebuilding efforts of these treasures.
When I travel I love seeing beautiful architecture, especially when tourists and natives are enjoying the urban landscape and bringing it to life. I'm always on the lookout for scenes of people biking, relaxing, and dining outdoors together because this is often the basis for my paintings. After reviewing these photos, I'm itching to get started on some new canvases!
I hope you enjoyed my mini-tour of Dresden, and that you are inspired to visit this beautiful, historic city.
Union Square, Looking Up Park Avenue, 1975, oil on canvas
I have long admired Fairfield Porter's work for his ability to simplify and for his restrained and harmonious palette. So I was very pleased to find a small collection of his paintings at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, especially since my experience with his work is mostly from books. I rarely see his originals in museums.
Self Portrait in Studio, 1968, oil on canvas
Fairfield Porter, 1907-1975, was a realistic painter during the mid-twentieth century when the art world was focused on Abstract Art, Pop Art, and Photo-realism. He was a painter of portraits, domestic scenes, and landscapes that show a relaxed, contemplative sensibility.
Portrait of Ted Carey and Andy Warhol, 1960, oil on linen
Sunrise on South Main Street, 1973, oil on canvas
I find his subtle color combinations especially beautiful. I also love how he simplified complex images like the one above, while creating a strong sense of light and place.
I was so happy to be able to visit this major retrospective of David Hockney's work at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. I was familiar with his work and have always admired his color sense and his moody, enigmatic portraits. Most of his work is very large, so I knew that seeing his art in person would be a totally different experience from seeing it on the computer or in a book. I also wanted to get a sense of the artistic progression throughout his long career (he's now 80), and to understand his different influences and styles.
This iconic Hockney painting is one of his best known. In person it is bold and powerful. I love how he gave the feeling of water by simplifying shapes and colors. The light colors, dark shadows, and powerful reflected light create a scene shimmering in strong California sunlight.
This is the first of Hockney's double portrait series, which often showed couples in intense, emotionally ambiguous poses set in their homes.
Later Hockney switched to oil paint and created intensely colored landscapes of his native Yorkshire, England.
The artist often created very large paintings made up of many medium sized canvases, each taken from a slightly different perspective, as if one were to turn a bit to look to each side or up and down to see each individual view.
This painting, like many in his later years, plays with perspective. For instance, here the deck seems to both advance and recede at the same time.
Hockney was an early adapter of drawing on the iPhone and later the iPad. For years he has created small daily sketches of views from his house and of household still lifes and posted them to friends.
No one would ever call me a party animal. Ever. So it's no surprise that my favorite New Year's tradition has nothing to do with the festivities on New Year's Eve. Instead I'm all about the new beginnings of New Year's Day. My tradition is to create a vision board which I use to inspire me about my goals and the possibilities of the coming year.
I'm sharing my vision boards from the last several years with you in the hope that they inspire you, too. I have erased some of the text because, well, some goals are personal. :-)
I was introduced to the idea of a vision board by a friend at her New Year's day brunch seven years ago. She explained to her guests that a vision board is a collection of images of things that you would like to become part of your life. It's a way of focusing on these ideas and enjoying the feeling of already having them.
So in this case, the images were to be of our visions for the next year. Our friend provided us with stacks of old magazines, poster board, glue, and markers, and we had a great time. When I got home, I posted my collage on the wall in my studio.
Over the next year I enjoyed looking the goals on my vision board. I didn't worry about accomplishing them, I just glanced at it a few times a month and was able to think positively about my priorities and about what I might do next.
I enjoyed my vision board so much that I've made it a personal tradition to start a new one each year on New Year's Day. (Sometimes it doesn't get finished until February, but that's OK.) Of course, because I'm an artist, the final product must be visually attractive as well as inspirational.
I start by deciding on my main goals for the year, both personal and professional. I find it works best for me if I don't make the goals too specific; I can do that elsewhere if needed. Then I make labels of the ideas and begin gathering images that suggest each goal, from the internet and magazines – this is a great excuse to buy a handful of my favorites! I also include some images of my artwork. Lastly, I arrange it all in a pleasing composition.
Right now I'm working on my vision board for 2018. I've got lots of good ideas and I can't wait to see what it looks like when it's all put together! So now it's your turn. What do you want your 2018 to look like?
Best wishes for the Happiest of New Years,
Maxwell Anderson is a celebrated art historian who for thirty years was director of museums in Atlanta, Toronto, Indianapolis, New York, and Dallas, most notably as the director of the Whitney Museum in New York for 15 years. He curated countless exhibitions, procured innumerable works to enrich museum collections, and occasionally identified unattributed treasures that rocked the art world.
Anderson is clear about what he looks for in artwork, "If a work of art does its job properly – by inspiring us, for example, or stirring, provoking, or engaging us – then it has a claim to being measured by how well it does one or more of these things."
Technical Skill of the Impressionists
The French Impressionists were startlingly original in their time and are now admired worldwide; Impressionist exhibits are very popular and profitable for museums. However, Anderson is discriminating regarding the technical skill of individual impressionists. He does not mince words when he talks about why he sees Manet's work "The Bar at the Follies-Bergère" as a masterpiece, whereas he views Renoir as "the poster child of the overrated artist."
Throughout the book Anderson analyzes seemingly disparate works of art such as the Nairobi mask, Bernini bust, and Mendelssohn observatory shown above, and explains why they all meet his five criteria of artistic quality.
In addition learning more about artistic quality, I was intrigued by Anderson's many tales of the inner workings of top-tier museums and the challenges they face.
I found that reading this book on an iPad had distinct advantages; I could easily look up less familiar vocabulary words (inchohate, plebiscite, adduced, invidious, evanescent, etc.), and also zoom in on the illustrations to study them carefully. I highly recommend "The Quality Instinct", a fascinating read. Enjoy!
I get asked this a lot at art festivals. It's natural to look at something that seems difficult and wonder how many hours of work are involved. You would think I would have a clear answer, but it took me a while to decide how to respond. Here's why:
It's Hard to Say
I'm never really sure how long a painting takes, because I never work on a single painting straight from start to finish. I usually work on two or more paintings at a time, and I'll often put a painting aside for a while to get a fresh look at it. (The small painting above was completed over the course of two months, because it remained unfinished for quite a while.) And I don't paint all day. More than half of my time is spent on work other than painting.
What Other Work?
Well, there's all the preparation that happens before I actually pick up my paintbrush, including taking photos, culling them, editing them, creating sketches, and doing the work to prepare the canvas.
Getting the Word Out
There's also the marketing side of art, which is always more time consuming than any artist wants. This includes writing my blog and newsletter, preparing for shows, attending art events, entering competitions, updating my website and inventory software, posting on Facebook, shipping art, and maintaining connections with my gallery and my clients. And the list goes on.
The Short Answer
But I think the answer most people want is what time did I spend actually painting. And unfortunately, I don't know because I don't track the hours on a specific painting. The best way I can answer that is to say that my smaller paintings (16x16 and smaller) are generally painted within a week and my larger ones (30x30 and larger) within a month or more. Does that answer your question? I hope so!
A Master of California Light
Tim Horn is one of the contemporary painters I most admire. I find his paintings so honest, compelling, and uplifting. He is known for his depictions of rural and small town northern California, as well as his recurrent themes of surfing, Airstream trailers, and old cars and trucks.
For me, the most striking aspect of Tim Horn's paintings is his depiction of the strong, warm light of California, which he achieves through a mastery of color and value. I attribute his skill to his dedication to plein air painting as well as to his background in graphic design. His paintings exhibit a sophisticated sense of composition and an ability to simplify complex subjects into clear forms that move the eye around the canvas.
In addition to painting in California, Tim holds workshops around the country, painting in locations such as Maine, North Carolina, and Arizona. His work from those areas reflects the unique atmosphere of each place, while at the same time exhibiting his distinctive style.
I've taken several workshops from Tim and he is a thoughtful, patient, and generous teacher, transmitting his enthusiasm for plein air painting and for using paint to interpret the world around us. He once said something that has stuck with me; he said his aim was to create "paintings that feel 100% me." I continue to admire his work and I am inspired to create my own "100% me" paintings.
You can see more of Tim's work on his website at TimHornArt.com.
What It Takes
People often ask me how long it takes to paint a painting. I think it's not so much that they are interested in the exact time, but they want to get a sense my typical process from inspiration to completed canvas. In this post I explain the stages and some of the creative decisions that went into my recent painting, "The Family Castle", which began with photos I took of a family at Clearwater Beach, FL. This 40x40 painting took about a month to complete.
My inspiration for this painting began with the image on the left. When I was walking along Clearwater Beach I was attracted to this young family creating a sand castle together. I took several photos and these two were my favorites.
I was immediately attracted to the beautiful posture of the woman at the left. She is standing in a classic contrapposto pose – her weight on one foot – which makes her body look both dynamic and relaxed. The bucket in her hand and her air of concentration tell the story of the scene: the family enjoying working on a fun project together. I also liked how the two sons were working side by side.
In the photo on the right I liked the pose of the standing son caught in a moment of action and purpose. Since odd numbers are always more interesting, I combined all these figures to make a family of five instead of four. I re-positioned all five figures to create a scene that worked in my favorite square format, which you can see below in black and white.
You may have noticed that the photo at left is in the sun and the one at right is under clouds. I planned to modify the skin tones of the standing boy and to add sharper shadows to make him look correct in my sunlit painting.
I used a black and white version of the composite photo (above left) to create my form and value studies (center). The small sketch defines the large shapes which must make an interesting design on their own, without details. The larger sketch is the value study. In it you can see that the darkest shapes are all in the foreground; the woman's hair and top, the three caps of the boys, and the father's shorts. They create a pattern that moves your eye around the canvas. Even though the background in the photo is much darker, I planned to paint it light to make that area recede.
Next I added notes on the value sketch as I planned the colors. I always start with the actual colors in the photo that I like – in this case, the red and black of the woman's suit and the beautiful green/blue of the water – and then I work around those colors to plan all the other hues.
On the right is my palate as I worked on the painting. Generally, I mix multiple hues for each color. The red of her suit, for instance, has at least four versions. For each hue, I start with the darker colors at the back of my palate and lighten it as I move forward. The three vertical lines of color at the left are all versions of skin color. These puddles of mixed color constantly change as I work on the painting and need more space to mix fresh color.
Drawing and Painting
Using a grid on both the photo and my grey-tinted canvas, I started the drawing with a light yellow ochre paint. Next, I used a darker burnt sienna on top of that as I continued to refined the drawing.
On the right are my first marks of color, starting with the ones I was most sure of. I painted very loosely to define the major color notes. You can see I added additional figures in the ocean to round out the composition.
First Pass of Color
On the left is my completed first pass, with only simplified color notes for each color. On the right, I started to modify some of the colors. For instance, I changed the color of the swimsuits of the man and boy, and I lightened the distant buildings and the sand castle. My goal was to make the colors work better together and to make the background recede.
Now the Details
At the scale of these photos you might not be able to see it, but there is a tremendous amount of refining represented in these two images. I continued to lighten and modify the figures, the background, the ocean, the sky, and the sand. My aim was to balance all the elements and to create the statement of a relaxed family working together on a sunny beach. When I felt that I had accomplished that (and nothing bothered me), I finally signed my name.
I'm constantly refining the colors I use; as my work changes so do my paints. Here's my current palatte, with colors in the order I place them, left to right.
As you can see from the photo above, I'm partial to Gamblin colors. I like their heavy, soft consistency, their high quality colors, and their price tag.
My color advice for beginning oil painters
Buy good paint, never student grade. You can't learn to paint well with poor quality paint. Utrecht makes good quality paints that are a great value.
Start with a limited palatte and really learn to use those hues. I recommend the above list, initially eliminating Perylene Red, and Raw Sienna. Resist the temptation to buy other exotic hues until you are really comfortable with these, and you will save yourself a lot of money in unnecessary tubes of paint.
My color advice for intermediate oil painters
Take time to practice mixing secondary hues (oranges, greens, and violets) from your basic palate of colors. Learn why mixing a cool red and a cool blue makes a beautiful violet, but a warm red and a warm blue makes ugly violet mud. (It's because the warm colors also have some yellow in them, which dulls the violet.) This concept is true for all secondary colors.
Then learn to make neutrals using Portland Grey with a little color mixed in. You can make beautiful blue greys, violet greys, and orange greys that will make brighter colors pop when put next to them.
Also, I highly recommend the book Color: A Course In Mastering the Art of Mixing Colors by Betty Edwards. This book does a beautiful job of explaining color in terms of hue, value, intensity, and harmony.
Lessons I wish I had learned earlier
Here are a few quick tips that I learned the hard way.
There's always more to learn! What questions do you have? What tips can you add? Please write to me in the section below.
I'm Linda Hugues and I paint scenes of people and places from my vacations in Europe and my travels in Florida. Here on my monthly blog I write about everything related to my art life, in and out of the studio. Enjoy!