The Mandolin Player, 7x5

'The Mandolin Player', 7x5" graphite on paper

My last post had me thinking of a story of when I was drawing nudes as a young adult on a weekly basis. It is a funny memory at best. I do remember clearly, one session we had a male nude who we had deemed "the Mandolin player". He was a regular model and he'd play his mandolin while we were drawing him, there in the buff. His music was wonderful to draw to, but he was always in pretty much the same position...standing there before us, holding his instrument (OK, get your minds out of the gutter...), possibly with a foot up on a stool to help hold his posture and mandolin. So one session our instructor asked the Mandolin player to sit on a stool without his mandolin so we could get some figurative variety. Nice idea, one would think... So the model arranged to sit and he did so with his elbows on his knees, with all his glory, on the chair looking directly at the entire class. Good thing I had a side view, because at the time, my maturity was pretty shallow as did most of the students who moved over, en mass, to avoid their natural 'man-ness' point of view. The instructor, in his low and quiet-like Clint Eastwood sounding voice said, "you only have to suggest the parts", and so the high level of anxiety waned. I still have that sketch and it was one of my favorites...albeit just his face. Here it is from 25+ years ago!

Labels: ,


Sitting Nude, 8x10

'Sitting Nude', 8x10" Pastel on sanded paper ©2011 Brenda Boylan

It's been years since I've had the opportunity to paint a nude from life and last week I was asked to join a few other artists in this live session. Originally, I thought I'd be really safe and work with charcoal or pencil on Canson paper to avoid any embarrassment of my skills, but after thinking about how chicken this really was I gave myself the courage to just do it and use what I know best...pastels. 'Thrilled' with my results is an understatement after all some 25 years. The southern light source was a bit hard to discern it's temp, so I just faked it and used both warm (reds and oranges) and cool colors (purps and blues) for the shadows. This model had such clear, beautiful skin that I hope to get another opportunity to paint her again. I worked out 2 pieces on mounted Wallis Belgian Mist in the 3 hour session and both turned out pretty much the same, except the other one (not shown) is a vertical format.

Labels: , ,


'What do artists do?' and Standing Prior Green, 12x9

'Standing Prior Green', 12x9" Pastel ©2011, Brenda Boylan

The weather has been teasing us Oregonians for far too long with promising weather and finally the cloud cover broke, so outdoors to paint I went...with layers and layers of sweatshirts. Winter reminds us it is still early spring and it still gets really cold here between weather systems. I actually went out for three days straight, but my plein air work was so rusty from my winter hibernation that I'm only going to post this one piece which was from today's outing. This stand of trees is located close in my community, on the back side of a strip mall and business park. Beautiful trees of oak, ash and possibly an elm here and there make for a sensitive rendering. I have had my eye on this spot for some time for a painting destination, but finally today I actually went. Now that I've been there, it's so convenient that it may be considered my second favorite place to paint. Sauvie Island is my first.

So, I have to share this conversation I had with a gentleman I met at a birthday party this past weekend.

In the usual flow of chit-chatty conversation, people eventually end up asking what you do for a living. When I am asked this question, I blurt out my elevator spiel and everyone should know by then, golly, that I am an artist.....but has anyone ever asked you 'What do artist's do?' Yes, I was asked this in a most direct and serious manner and I thought, 'Yes, finally someone wants to understand all that we do besides painting perty pictures all day long." OK, I'm being a tiny bit sarcastic here, but really, this was a great question for anyone to ask of an artist.
Artists do a lot of different things. We do accounting, advertising, marketing, inventory, cleaning, assembling, analyzing (critiquing), communication, purchasing, and the occasional entertaining...oh, and don't forget the painting...yes, the best part. Our conversation was a healthy one at that, because I got to understand what he does (he's an engineer), and he explained clearly and simply what engineers do. It's fascinating to learn in depth about others' careers, but even more so important to explain the unusual life's work of an artist, and it ain't all perty pictures. What do you do for a living and how do you explain to others what you get to do?

Labels: , , ,



My plein air palette (cleaned and reassembled)

In my last post about my studio palette, Cindy and Kimberly's comments have spurred me to share a little bit about my plein air pochade box. I purchased my Open Box M about 3-4 years ago and have never regretted it. It offers a space on the back where I can store my finished pieces, a removable backboard I can attach my paper to, a large bed to place my pastels in, and a side tray. The biggest selling point was that it came with a wine glass holder! Imagine sipping wine after a wonderful plein air workout. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about here...but I digress.

I have made a few unique modifications that were not originally part of the box. These 'extras' were added to aid in quick set-up as well as wanting a mix of other features that are offered on many other well-known manufactured pochade boxes. So here goes:

Footsies, or better known as bumpers, attached to all four sides

First, I had to have my box be versatile both inside the studio and out. On the underside of the box is a thick piece of wood that supports the tripod adaptor which stretches the width of the box. Because of this necessary piece of support, it was unable to lay flat on my drafting board while in the studio. So I added some 'feet' on all four corners of the underside to clear the wooden brace, and now it can sit on my table flat without wiggling and tilting here and there. I bought these little feet at Judson's Art Outfitters in the "DIY" section here. Oooh nice! But wait, there's more!

Sturdy 'D' rings to attach a carrying strap

Let me back-up a bit here. Originally, I was gifted a Guerilla Box and loved a lot of the features, but it just didn't offer enough room for my favorite pastels. The Open Box M has plenty of room and comes with a small briefcase-like handle to carry it to the field. But hey, what if you need extra arms to carry those additional supplies that must make the trek to your favorite view? So, I added a few heavy duty D-rings on the sides of the box (like that of the Guerilla Painter box) and attached a leather strap that I bought online. Yes, now my arms are free to carry my wine bottle....oh, I mean lunch!

This hinge is from Guerilla Box that makes for quick opening and closing.

Next, there was the quick open/close issue. The Open Box came with two hinges on both sides on the lid that had little wing nuts that I found to be rather fussy. The Guerilla Box had a very sturdy aluminum hinge device made for quick opening and angle adjustments of the backboard and I liked it a lot. I found this very device in Judsons' Art Outfitters catalogue in their "DIY" section. This little "L" Bracket is sized for 6x8" boxes and can be mounted on either the left or right side of the box. It is strong and lightweight and is super fast to open and adjust to the right angle. Since I don't do hardware that well I had a woodworker attach it for me. I was thrilled for this small but important adaptation because I didn't have to mess with tiny little wing nuts when now all I have to do now is twist one knob and 'voila', it's done!

memory foam to protect my babies

Finally, the foam....

The Open Box M came with foam, however, it was not memory foam. If you have ever touched memory foam, you know what I mean. Have you ever sat on a Tempur-pedic bed? Well, imagine a bed for your pastels that protects and holds them tight in place. No more smashed pastels! The trick was finding memory foam that is sliced to 1/3 inch thick to fit the bed and top. I ordered such foam from Knox Foam, but the funny thing is that after I placed my order, they callled me back to inform me that they don't have the ability to slice it that thin. Then after about a month a funny looking package arrived on my doorstep. Memory foam cut to size! Now I really owe them a huge thanks for doing that, because it was going to be interesting slicing memory foam to 1/3 inch thick with an electric knife and guide blocks. The foam was sliced and glued with a spray mount onto a piece of illustration board cut to fit the interior lid of the box. This is what covers the pastels and holds them in place when the lid is closed.

These adaptations are a bit over the top but, they were just what I wanted in a box. It was worth the extra effort of searching for the parts and building it, and so now it is definitely one of a kind. What type of plein air box do you use?

Labels: , , , ,


My pastel palette + a challenging week

My studio palette

This past week I spent some time getting one of my pastel pochade boxes cleaned, modified, and organized for the upcoming plein air season. I have two pochade boxes; one is for the studio (this decent little box shown here, but not apt for outdoors) and the other is my die hard Open Box M. A while back I picked up Richard McKinley's book 'Pastel Pointers' and in it he had a photo and explanation of how he lays out his plein air box. So I thought I'd rearrange my pastels, one by one, and put them back just as he recommends. It's sort of a meditation of sorts, quietly placing and rearranging them like a mosaic. Originally, my box was arranged from l-r: reds, yellows, warm greens, cool greens, blues, purples. I shifted the pattern in my box as Richard illustrated and also added an area on the far right for neutrals. While my pastels were all out of the box, I decided to clean the pastels and washed the memory foam that lines my box. I also put a sturdier clip to secure my box from opening while carrying...if I ever take this one out of the studio. All it needs now is a tripod adaptor.

This week also was a trying one for me health wise.
I had 4 doctor appointments and no time for exercise (which I love doing, really) and a full day of driving art round trip to Tacoma and back that left me with no time to paint. My doc diagnosed me with Celiacs Disease after having a 'fun' endoscopy (that's when they put a camera down into your small intestines). This means I have to become clean of any gluten products, an element found in wheat, rye and barley. Did you know that wheat, rye and barley is in nearly almost all processed foods, the backbone of the American diet? It's even in some chocolates! No more tabouli, soups made with boullion, beer, fish and chips, as well as food that gets traces of gluten from sharing the same cooking utensils, etc. I am about to become a picky eater... Augh! The good news is that I have never craved breads and pastas, and I can still enjoy wine....whew! After taking in this news, I went into the grieving process of denial (I have no symptoms, how could I even have this celiacs thing?), anger (why me?), sadness (yes, I wept on the proceedure table) and then onto acceptance (a good attitude helps with this last one). After researching and reading more, I am finding that it won't be too bad and am actually looking forward to the many benefits of being gluten-free. I'm hoping to have more energy (imagine that), sharper memory, no achy arms while I sleep and a slew of other benefits ... to be ready to rock when the sun comes out and celebrate that at least I am alive and blessed to paint and create! I raise my glass to celebrate another great plein air season!

Labels: , , , , ,