Welcome to my Art Blog! I paint or draw most weekdays and sometimes finish a painting a day. I fondly call them my "Postcards from Paradise" because it's such a beautiful place the Lord made here for us.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Packing Art Supplies for the Trip

I've seen several blog and facebook posts in last few days about taking art supplies on airplanes.

If you've been reading this blog lately you know that I recently took a trip to Italy. For my 2 week travels I packed mostly art supplies in my two bags, both of which I carried on.

I took pastels, charcoal and chalk, pencils and eraser, a tiny pan watercolor set, a tripod and my painting box that attaches to the tripod, and some oil colours, along with paper, panels and a canvas pad. (I took very few clothes except for what I was wearing in layers on the plane!)

I was careful when packing the oils to take half-used tubes which would fit with my other liquids/gels in the 1 quart baggie. And of course, I brought NO solvents.

I figured it wouldn't be too hard to locate some paint thinner or turpentine once I was at my destination. (However, it was NOT easy to find some! I've already posted a little about that in past couple of blog posts.)

Ah... back to airport security. I also packed along the material safety data sheets (MSDS) for the oils, in case I needed them.

Everything went through the xray and security checks okay in the US and I wasn't hassled. I did get randomly pulled aside to have my computer sized bag looked at during a flight switch while still in the US. The two security folks were actually very pleasant (even excited for me) when I explained that I was carrying mostly art supplies in that bag for an art trip to Italy. They took a quick look inside the bag and then I went back in line to get on the plane. Being singled out was little odd, but not a problem.

In Paris they seemed puzzled by the pastels at the xray point. I explained that I was carrying art supplies and they had the aha moment and let me through without further delay.

In 2005 my family and I flew to France. The pastels seemed to mystify the security folks on xray duty that time too. The fellow at the machine asked, "What am I looking at?" All were passed through when I explained that they were artist's chalks of various pigments and they had a look inside the box.

(My boys' football which they had packed in their carry-on was quite another puzzle for the xray watchers! They removed the ball from the bag to have a closer look.)

So... how did I locate some paint thinner in Italy? We finally found a hardware store (ferramenta = ironmongery) on a drive through one of the towns. My husband and I found it challenging to get across to the clerk what we wanted. Walking around the store we discovered a can of something on the shelf with the house paints that was supposed to be turpentine. Our Italian language skills lacked the necessary terms to ask conclusively, but miming the act of painting and washing brushes seemed to get the idea across well enough.

Turns out it that the can I bought contained some kind of mixture, as the label disclosed that mineral spirits was an ingredient. It worked for painting and cleaning brushes, though, so I was grateful to have it.

I'd been using my baby oil and shampoo for washing out brushes before I got the paint thinner, which worked just fine for cleaning. By the way, baby oil (or vegetable oil) works for this purpose, or for cleaning paint off of one's hands while working. I usually carry a little container of it in my plein air paint box to clean my hands when I need to.

At our last hotel stop before we left for the airport I was able to leave the can of paint thinner with the desk clerk, who kindly assured me they could use it when I explained that I could not take it home with me.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pushing Paint in Tuscany

I still had not located any paint thinner when I did this little study the next morning after finishing "San Gimagnano, Afternoon".

I could see the silhouetted towers up the hill from where I was, with the awakening sky behind it.

Pushing the thick paint around on my little panel without any solvent worked because I kept the big shapes and the silhouetted contrast my main focus.

I wasn't able to find a hardware store to buy some paint thinner until the day after this, in another town.

"San Gimagnano, Morning"
Original unframed oil, approx. 5"x7"
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Painting in Tuscany

I can hardly believe I just wrote the post title. And yet, just over a week ago I was there. And painting!

Being in Florence recently with all the art was wonderful, along with our trip into the Tuscan region. Now that I'm back home in my quiet and solitary existence, I'm thinking it is a little like living in one of those lonely monasteries sequestered on a hill.

The memories of our Italy trip are still quite fresh, though, and I'm enjoying remembering. After our stay in Florence, we rented a little car and drove away from the big city and toward the country. The Bed and Breakfast we found near the ancient walled town of San Gimagnano had a lovely view of the town.

The medieval walled city, a short walk up the hill, was typical of several ancient towns we explored during our week in the area: narrow cobblestone streets, a church and bell tower, and little shops along the streets.

It not being tourist season, some places were not open and I learned there was no hardware store in town. I was looking for some paint thinner or turpentine but didn't locate any.

So I had to do without for this little study I did in the afternoon. The fast-drying oils (alkyds) I brought felt like chalky mud on my brushes and it was difficult to get sharp edges or detail in this small piece.

However, the simplified forms have a certain charm, so I'm glad the piece worked out as it did.

"San Gimagnano, Afternoon"
Original unframed oil, approx. 6"x6"
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

Monday, March 25, 2013

Studying David's Face

This is a sketch I did at the end of our week in Florence. I sat on a cold stone step at the Loggia della Signoria where I could see the David replica about 50 feet away at the entrance of Palazzo Vecchio. The Loggia is an open-air sculpture gallery of antique and Renaissance art.

The eyes of David, with a warning glare, are turned towards Rome. Michelangelo's original David statue was moved from the Palazzo Vecchio location to the Academy in 1873. It was later replaced at the original location by a replica. (I cannot find any information about who made the David copy.)

David's expression is intense, but obscure: confident, and yet, perturbed. The pose of his body is relaxed, but his brow is strained.

“David's Face Study” (after Michelangelo)
Charcoal and chalk on Canson 12"x9" Unframed
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

Nearby, outside the Uffizi, where crowds were waiting in line to get in were live street performers posing as sculptures, along with numerous artists set up to draw portraits and show their art.

I bought a couple of tiny engravings from Dorotea Muller (at left), a Florence native, who told me she studied at The Academy.

I also got a miniature watercolor from another woman artist who wrote her email address on the back. Unfortunately, I cannot decipher her handwriting.

Friday, March 22, 2013

More of Michelangelo's Work in Florence

Although I was not able to see all I wanted to in Florence, even of Michelangelo's work, I was able to spend the good part of another day at the Medici Chapels.

The Prince's Chapel, an amazing open dome, highly decorated inside with marble, semi-precious stones, paintings on the very high domed ceiling and every surface covered with decorations, made me wonder at the cost and risk of the artists and artisans who labored there.

A few steps from the Prince's Chapel is the Michelangelo New Sacristy with the artist's Madonna with Child, his sculpted tomb of Giuliano with statues of Night and Day, and the tomb of Lorenzo with Dusk and Dawn sculptures.

So much to take in! One could easily spend a week in the chapels and not really see half of what is there. (And there is more downstairs in the crypt: sculptures and reliquaries!)

The tomb sculptures interested me the most for study. The marbles, still shiny and glowing even in the dim light, invited me to sit and look. For me, the best way to look is to draw.

Although there was not a good place to sit for a close view, I was able to park myself behind the altar, and could see the Tomb of Lorenzo de'Medici about 25 feet away, on my right. There I had clear visual path, if not a detailed one, to Michelangelo's Dawn sculpture.

Say what you will about the artist's muscular female figures (with, as one person put it, "breasts tacked on at anatomically suspect angles"). They are beautiful sculptures, all.

I sat down on the hard wooden bench (indeed, every public surface in Florence is like iron) and got out a 9x12" pad of colored Canson and some charcoal I'd packed in my suitcase. (Most of what I brought along for the trip was art supplies!)

The guard ventured over to where I was and informed me that I could not use "the carbon", but only pencil. So... sigh... back into my bag went the Canson and my little container of charcoal and chalk. I had my small journal with plain white paper and a drawing pencil, so I attempted a sketch, albeit a little one.

“Dawn Study” (after Michelangelo)
Pencil on white paper, 7.5"x5.5”
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Drawing in Florence

This is my second study I did of the David, while in Florence recently. When I was working on this sketch, people stopped by and offered encouraging remarks or ask questions.

One of the guards there checked my progress every once in awhile and I asked him what it was like, being there with such a treasure every day. "Is it like a miracle?" I wondered.

He explained that it is difficult to enjoy being there because he has to constantly watch the crowd. But he did offer that his favorite place to look at the sculpture was where he could see the face, about ninety degrees to the right, from my position in the gallery.

One of the other guards told me she felt it was a privilege to be there with the art every day.

“David Study” (after Michelangelo)
Charcoal and chalk on Canson 12"x9" Unframed
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Being in Florence

I recently returned from a trip to Florence, Italy. Dare I call it a pilgrimage?

There is so much to see and take in that I knew beforehand that I would have to pick and choose where I would spend my limited days. A week is not long to be there but I did get to see quite a lot in that time. A year there, absorbing and studying, would be better.

My first day, I walked a few blocks from where we were staying to buy a Firenze card. The card is a handy instrument which allows several days of museum hopping without waiting in the typically long lines at the most popular sites.

Every little street in Florence was scenic and seemed steeped in centuries of cultural richness. It was difficult to wrap my head around it all and it felt disorienting to be walking in a place with such a history. At Palazzo Vecchio I strolled past the many sculptures, including the copy of Michelangelo's colossal David (or maybe I tiptoed) and purchased my card in the building that is Florence's town hall. I then walked around the corner to the Uffizi. Michelangelo's work is everywhere in his home town, along with centuries of collected art treasures.

Next day, I ventured to the Academy (Galleria dell'Accademia) to see Michelangelo's David and other works there. Walking through the long hall with Michelangelo's unfinished slaves and pieta, and then seeing the David at the end is a very powerful experience. Yes, moving.

I sat and sketched the masterpiece a couple of times before venturing on to the rest of the museum. This head study is the first drawing. He was a very good model and held quite still.

“David, Head Study”
(after Michelangelo)
Charcoal and chalk on Canson 9"x12"
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

Friday, March 15, 2013

March Painting Challenge "Ides of March"

"Ides of March of the Penguins"
Pastel on Canson 
9"x12" Unframed
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

They are Emperor Penguins, after all.

Vicki chose our subject for this month's Challenge: perfect for March 15th! However, I confess I was totally stumped when she announced the idea.

After some consideration and reading up on the associations of the day, some thoughts began to suggest themselves for images, but I wasn't excited about any of them. Then I remembered a visual pun my husband made a few years ago for our refrigerator gallery with a penguin in a toga. He often comes up with clever cartoons to amuse us: our own private Far Side at home. This sort of idea seemed a lot more fun than Julius Caesar's demise.

Vicki's painting portrays the cocktail invented in Canada that relates to the Ides of March, the Bloody Caesar, a blend of vodka, Clamato and some spicy additions. I love her still life she composed for this Challenge, along with her blog post about it. And Suzanne's storm clouds fit the forboding theme to "Beware the Ides of March" in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. I think all of us went outside the box for this one. It was indeed challenging!

(below left) "Bloody Caesar" 16"x12" Pastel on sanded board ©2013 V.N.Ross
(below right) "Storm's Comin'" 18"x18" oil on canvas ©2013 Suzanne Berry


Friday, March 1, 2013

Work at Treasured Landscape Show

"Peek-a-boo Trees"
Original oil, 7"x5"
Framed in gold frame with linen liner
©2007 Diana Moses Botkin

This small plein air painting is being shown at the "Lightning Creek Restoration" exhibit in Sandpoint, Idaho at the Panhandle State Bank gallery. Opening is tonight at 6 pm.

The National Forest Foundation, one of the sponsors of this show, has designated Lightning Creek as a Treasured Landscape.